Ryan Astley set out his determination to “keep working hard and proving myself” after signing his first professional contract at Everton.
The 17-year-old centre-back last week penned his deal until June 2021, having enjoyed a breakthrough season at the Club.
The Wales youth international kicked off the 2018-19 campaign in Everton’s Under-18 team, helping Paul Tait’s side establish themselves in the upper echelons of the U18 Premier League (North) table.
Astley’s commanding displays have seen him become a regular fixture Toffees’ Under-23s squad of late, having made his debut for David Unsworth’s side back in March 2018 at the age of 16.
The defender says he was thrilled to commit his future to Everton, with Director of Football Marcel Brands’ presence at his contract-signing a further boost for the youngster.
“It’s a dream come true to sign my first professional contract,” he told evertonfc.com. “It’s what I have always wanted.
“It’s brilliant to see Marcel Brands here and he had some kind words for me. It is great to get a photo with him.
“My family all came up, too, so it’s a nice moment to share with them. My brother’s back from New Zealand so it couldn’t be better timing.
“Now, I just need to keep working hard on and off the pitch. I want to keep proving myself and keep developing."
Astley’s recent performances for the table-topping Under-23s have earned praise from Unsworth. He has also helped Paul Tait’s Under-18 team progress in the FA Youth Cup, notably slotting home from the spot in the young Blues’ dramatic penalty shootout victory at Stoke City in the fourth round.
The young defender says he is now eager to “kick on” after signing his new deal – and was eager to pay tribute to the coaching staff at Everton, insisting they have been key to his progression.
He believes the challenging and encouraging environment at the Club can help him to realise his potential.
“The coaches have all been brilliant with me,” he said.
“They have given me tips on how to improve myself, in my defending, positioning and playing out from the back.
“They give me positive from where I’ve done well, too. That means I can play with full confidence.
“There are more steps I need to take, and I will continue to work hard.”