Everton tasted defeat in the Europa League for the first time this season on Thursday night, going down 1-0 to Russian side FC Krasnodar at Goodison Park.
Roberto Martinez made 10 changes to his side with qualification to the last 32 as group winners already secured, with 17-year-old midfielder Ryan Ledson handed his competitive debut in a youthful line-up which also featured Tyias Browning, Luke Garbutt and Conor McAleney.
A member of the academy since the age of five, Ledson only signed his first professional contract with the Toffees in August, but had already been named on the first-team bench for the Premier League clash against Southampton in April after establishing himself as a regular in the Under-21 side.
Having also captained England to the Under-17 European Championship title this past season, the youngster has been tipped for big things in the future, and it was clear to see why on the night.
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Confident and tidy on the ball, Ledson didn’t look at all out of place in the centre of the pitch, as he sprayed the ball around with confidence which belied his young age.
Disciplined positionally and always looking for the ball, it was a hugely promising performance and one which moved manager Martinez to hail his contribution at the final whistle.
“At 17-years-old seeing the arrogance Ryan Ledson showed in a Goodison game is very, very pleasing,” he was quoted in the Liverpool Echo.
“Kieran Dowell is a very, very stylish footballer for such a young age and then there was Conor McAleny, Chris Long and Luke Garbutt was outstanding throughout the game.
“It is a shame we couldn’t get a positive result but we are all very pleased with the second-half reaction of all the young players."
It now remains to be seen how long it will be before Ledson becomes a more regular face in the first-team squad but, given what he showcased in his 90-minute audition, it could well happen sooner rather than later.