By Paddy Boyland

Mason Holgate has praised the ‘massive influence’ of Wayne Rooney and Everton’s other elder statesmen ahead of Saturday’s Premier League kick-off.

The promising 20-year-old was at an event to celebrate Everton’s new membership scheme, before sitting down to discuss the impact that Rooney has had on the younger players in the Everton squad.

And after personally delivering six-year-old supporter Lilli Rose her very own membership pack, Holgate also chose to highlight the role that the likes of Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Gareth Barry play in nurturing the club’s crop of exciting talent.

“With experience like his (Rooney’s) coming into the team, everyone understands that he knows what he’s talking about,” he said. “It helps me and the rest of the young lads out.

“He’s a massive influence but it’s not just him. If you look around the team, there’s also a lot of experience in there. In pretty much every position you’ve got someone of experience helping a youngster.

“In defence, Ash and Jags tell me what to do, people like Gareth Barry tell Tom what to do and now Wazza is helping Ademola and Dom. There’s a lot of people to help us come through and hopefully it’ll benefit us in the future.”

Aside from Rooney, the promising defender has also been impressed with the signing of England Under-21 teammate Jordan Pickford, who joined in a big-money deal from Sunderland earlier in the window.

“I spoke to him a lot while we were away with England and we were getting on really well,” he added. “As a keeper, his distribution is about the best I’ve seen.

“He can pick anything out at times but he’s just an all-round good keeper so I think he’s definitely a positive addition. It means a lot that we can build off that secure base in goal.”

Although Holgate played the majority of his football at right-back last season, there have been calls for the ex-Barnsley man to move inside to play in the centre.

But asked about his favoured position, he admitted that he feels equally comfortable in either role: “I don’t have a preference. I’ll play wherever I’m asked to play. I wouldn’t really say I was a centre-back or a right-back.

“I don’t feel out of position in either so right-back is fine by me.”

The arrival of Cuco Martina and Jonjoe Kenny’s emergence have increased competition for places in the Everton defence.

But after starting 16 Premier League games last time around, Holgate is now aiming to cement his spot in the Blues first-team after a breakthrough first campaign on Merseyside.

He concluded: “I just want to play as many games as possible and keep building. Last season I obviously played quite a lot of games due to Seamus’ injury but this year I’m hoping that I can get in, play as many games as possible and do well.”

“The game against Sevilla went well. I’ve not been able to have too much game-time as I came back later than everyone else. I felt like I could have carried on to complete the 90 minutes so I feel fit and ready and I look forward to Saturday.

“We’re definitely ready for the new season now. We’ve been counting down the days and everyone is ready for it.”

Adults can join the Official Membership scheme for £25, International Memberships cost £25, Young Blues (5-17 years) are £10 and Infants (0-4 years) are free.

By becoming a member, Evertonians can enjoy a bumper package of exclusive digital content including the newly-launched Everton Podcast, live audio commentary to all competitive first-team games, exclusive matchday analysis with the Club’s Ambassadors, plus the enhanced weekly in-house television programme, The Everton Show Extra.

To sign-up or find out more, visit Evertonfc.com

You can listen to Paddy Boyland’s chat with Mason Holgate, plus an interview with Ian Snodin, by clicking on the link below

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