Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth has revealed that a late illness suffered by Morgan Schneiderlin was the reason that highly-rated academy graduate Beni Baningime was thrown in at the deep end during Wednesday's (25 October) Carabao Cup fourth round clash against Chelsea.
The 19-year-old Congolese midfielder Baningime - rated by some as the new N'Golo Kante - was handed a first senior appearance by his Under-23 coach and played the full 90 minutes as goals from Antonio Rudiger and Willian condemned the struggling Toffees to a spirited 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in their first outing since the sacking of Ronald Koeman.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin snatched a late consolation goal for Everton, but the majority of the praise was reserved for the combative Baningime after an impressive debut in which he certainly did not appear overawed.
"Sometimes you stumble across a formula or personnel," Unsworth, who will reportedly hold talks with Everton chairman Bill Kenwright on Friday about the possibility of taking the first-team job on a permanent basis, was quoted as saying by the Liverpool Echo.
"If I'm being honest, Beni Baningime wasn't in the team last night. Morgan Schneiderlin was taken ill, so sometimes things are forced on you and that opened the door for an opportunity for a young player.
"I had no hesitation playing Beni because over the period of 18 months with the under-23s he has been outstanding. I know he has the ability, the physicality and the temperament to come to the champions and put in that sort of display. I didn't think he'd be as good as he was but I'm very proud of him for that."
Unsworth did not expand on Schneiderlin's issue, meaning that the former Southampton and Manchester United midfielder, who missed the embarrassing 5-2 loss to Arsenal after sustaining an ankle problem three days earlier in the eventful Europa League defeat to Lyon, could again be considered doubtful for Sunday's Premier League trip to Leicester City.
That game will see ex-Saints boss Claude Puel take charge of the Foxes for the first time after he was confirmed as Craig Shakespeare's successor last night.
Long-term absentees Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes Mori, Ross Barkley and Yannick Bolasie will all definitely miss that contest at the King Power Stadium, although James McCarthy is now available for senior duty once again.
The injury-plagued Republic of Ireland midfielder, now fully recovered from a long-term knee issue, lasted just over an hour against Chelsea on his first start in any competition since early February.
"We had a gameplan for an hour, then knew from a tactical point of view we would have to turn it around because I knew James would only have 60 minutes in his legs," Unsworth said of McCarthy's second-half substitution.