Could Kieran Dowell be the next Everton player to step up to the first-team?

Roberto Martinez has been keeping a close eye on the 18-year-old's development and he has been tipped to follow in the footsteps of Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley.

Could Kieran Dowell be the next Everton player to step up to the first-team?
Kieran Dowell (left) and Dundee's Andy Black battle for the ball during the pre-season friendly in Scotland. (Image: Liverpool Echo)

Kieran Dowell is viewed as one of Everton's most promising prospects and is being tipped to follow in the footsteps of Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley in progressing from the academy to the first-team.

Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning have both featured in the first-team this season, but could Dowell be the next player to step up to the Toffees senior side?

Who is Kieran Dowell?

Dowell, who was born in Ormskirk, has been associated with the Blues since he signed on with the club's academy as a seven-year-old. He signed his first professional contract at Everton in March 2015 - a deal which will run until the end of the 2016/17 season.

His skills and dribbling ability mean he can play in a variety of attacking positions and his talent has been highlighted by the international recognition he has already received. He has appeared regularly over the last two years for England under-16s and under-17s.

The youngster was also rewarded for his progress when he made his senior Everton debut in the Europa League against Krasnodar in December 2014. He was initially named on the substitutes' bench for the fixture, but he was thrust into action just six minutes into the tie to replace the injured Christian Atsu.

Dowell in action for England U18 against Italy U18. | Image: FA
Dowell in action for England U18 against Italy U18. | Image: FA

The next Everton star?

The 18-year-old is a player that Roberto Martinez rates highly too and the Everton boss has been keeping a close eye on Dowell's development. Martinez was at Finch Farm to witness Dowell score a 40-yard goal for the under-21 side against Southampton last week.

Dowell spotted that Saints goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga was marginally off his line and, from over 40 yards, the teenager struck a perfectly weighted and directed shot that sailed over him and into the net. Martinez was clearly impressed and the Everton boss said afterwards that his strike is "one of the best goals that you are going to see," adding, that regardless of his age, "I don't think there are many players who could execute it in the way he did."

Martinez is keen to develop young talent and he has given both Browning and Galloway a chance in the first-team this season. The Spaniard has also signed youngsters Mason Holgate, David HenenLeandro Rodriguez, Matty Foulds and Shani Tarashaj during the last two transfer windows, with a view to them eventually playing in the first-team.

Dowell has already spent time with Everton's senior side, impressing during a pre-season tour of Scotland and featuring in a friendly at Leeds United. However, he suffered an ankle injury in August which set him back and it is only in recent weeks that he has returned to top form.

Dowell (left) battles for the ball with Krasnodar's Yury Gazinskiy in the Europa League. | Image: Liverpool Echo
Dowell (left) battles for the ball with Krasnodar's Yury Gazinskiy in the Europa League. | Image: Liverpool Echo

A player Martinez rates highly

Martinez has been delighted with Dowell's development and says that he will have a role to play in Everton's first-team in the future, "without a doubt." The Everton boss also told the Liverpool Echo that he "expects we will see a lot more from Kieran" from now until the end of the season.

The Blues boss continued, saying that not only has Dowell got a "wonderful left foot," but that he is a unique talent and different to other British players. Martinez went onto explain that the 18-year-old is a player that "appreciates space", "enjoys being in between the lines" and his technical ability is a "natural gift".

Martinez is clearly an admirer of Dowell's talent and thinks that he has got a bright future in the game, as well as a role in the Everton first-team. However, for Dowell to make into the first-team, establish himself in the team and become Everton's playmaker for years to come, he needs to have a good grounding.

The leap from skilled teenager in the under-21s to Premier League starter is huge and Martinez may use the latter part of this season to give Dowell a taste of top-flight football. Alternatively, he may look to the middle ground and seek a loan move for the youngster in order for him to gain more experience.