Is The Grass Greener?

By Paul Traill   ::  17/02/2013 I was happily relaxing on late-morning Sunday when I read on Twitter that Everton U-21s were facing Middlesborough U-21s at 2pm with free entry to season ticket holders. With the sun shining, I thought it would be nice to check out how the younger players are getting on and, after a bit of persuasion, my better half decided to join me.

The journey to Southport was plain-sailing up until a horrendous delay due to temporary lights. Regardless, we arrived at Haig Avenue just as the game kicked off. Mucha, Garbutt, Duffy, Stones, Junior, Barkley, Vellios and McAleny the players featuring with any sort of first team experience. Browning, Lundstram and Hope the ones without. As I sat down quite central to the pitch, I glanced to my right and noticed David Moyes watching on only about 10 yards away from me.

You could see early on that the Everton players were looking to feed the ball to Barkley to provide the creative spark, with Junior helping out with smart passing and quick biting challenges.

Early on Vellios was denied by an agile save from Middlesbrough goalkeeper Connor Ripley. It didnít take Everton long to get ahead however Ė John Lundstram taking the ball down well and hitting a low drive which went past Ripley who perhaps might have done better. Regardless Everton were 1-0 ahead and deservedly so given how dominant we had been in the opening exchanges.

At the other end, Mucha was largely untroubled as Duffy and Browning were moping up well ahead of him with Garbutt and Stones providing effective cover from the flanks. Vellios almost doubled our money before the break with a clever backheel which was kept out by Ripley, whilst on one or two other occasions a bit more composure could have reaped better rewards. Comfortable stuff as we went into half-time.

At the interval, I grabbed a hot dog from the cringingly named ĎLicense To Grillí. Into the second half and there were no half-time changes from either team and it was generally more of the same Ė Everton dominant, Middlesbrough quite resilient though generally second-best. The visitors did have a few openings but Mucha was able to repel their attempts without too much discomfort. Two thirds into the game Evertonís two star players combined to effectively seal the win. Junior did very well to win the ball and play it forward to Barkley who, with still a lot to do, was able to run it into the box and slot past Ripley from quite a tight angle.

As the clock ticked on, Vellios was replaced by Duffus as Everton saw the game out. Away we went at full-time, back home after a nice day out. Itís a great idea to make these games free for season ticket holders and £5 Adults, £3 Children. Thatís five wins in a row now for the U21 team with three clean sheets on the spin also.

With regards to the team, I couldnít help but wonder where the motivation comes from for some of the reserve players. Vellios looked pretty disinterested for a lot of the game though you can sort of see why given the very limited opportunities he gets in the first team, regardless of how little Jelavic scores. Similarly Duffy, he must be frustrated with lack of opportunities when Heitinga is making quite a mess of defensive work at the moment. Francisco Junior also looked excellent pre-season and seems a really good player, very neat and tidy and sharp into the tackle, signed last season from Manchester City probably expecting to play in the first team though he has only been given 45 minutes to date. If these players arenít going to be picked for the first team, would it not be better for them to be loaned out to develop their skills and gain some vital first team experience? Even if they are then not wanted at Everton, they are surely more likely to increase their market value if they are playing in first teams elsewhere.

Of course, with the first team having a good season, Iím not suggesting we haphazardly throw these players into games but I think we should be trying to bed them in better. The problem with not doing this is that these lads will want to leave if opportunities remain rare. Just look at the success Baxter, Wallace and Foreshaw are making of their careers in League One at the momentÖ the grass could be a lot greener for some of our reserve players. I hope we donít lose out on anyone talented through lack of first team opportunities.

Player Ratings:

Mucha: Made some fairly comfortable saves and positioned and caught well, some of his kicking was poor however. 6

Garbutt: Returning from injury but looked OK. Seems to be getting back to fitness. 6

Duffy: Defended well. I think he captained the team and was very vocal throughout. 6

Browning: I was quite impressed with Browning. Didnít over-complicate things and defended well. 7

Stones: Probably not quite ready for first team but did OK. Comfortably on the ball and solid into the tackle. I can see what Moyes means saying he might be a centre-back. Very tall and composed. 6

Junior: My Man of the Match. Relieves a lot of pressure for the rest of his midfielders by covering ground in the midfield and making good tackles. Has a good creative side to him. He should either be in and around the first team or loaned out. 8

Barkley: You can tell his footballing brain ticks a lot faster than most around him as heís so good on the ball. The problem is he often tries to be over-elaborate with his skills and ends up getting himself into a bit of a cul-de-sac. I can see why heís not in the team just yet; maybe next season. If he can go back on loan to Sheffield Wednesday that would probably be best for him in my opinion. 7

Lundstram: Put a lot of work in and scored a good goal. Made a few sloppy mistakes but generally a good day's work. 7

Hope: Worked hard. A good performance by Hallam. I think he could be the next one to surprise us and start knocking on the first team door. Puts a shift in and isnít bad on the ball. Unlucky not to score in the second half. 7

Vellios: Seemed disinterested second half and didnít put enough work in. Looked as though he was going through the motions a bit. 5 Duffus (for Vellios): Not on for very long so difficult to judge.

Reader Comments

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Rob Sawyer
261 Posted 17/02/2013 at 19:48:29
Thanks Paul - it is always interesting to learn how the "reserves" are doing and get some information on Stones. I must get to a game at Haig Avenue - my parents took me there a lot in the early 70's when I was too young to go to Goodison. Could you hear Moyes baking instructions or did he leave it to Alan Stubbs?
Sam Hoare
267 Posted 17/02/2013 at 19:55:24
Thanks Paul. Was Mcaleny not playing? Maybe injured?

I agree with your point about them being better served out on loan. Gives them more of a chance to progress and us a better chance to see how ready they are for first team action.

Hope that Barkley, Vellios, Duffy and Junior get a chance to go out on loan if they are not going to get first team minutes.

Andrew Ellams
457 Posted 18/02/2013 at 09:20:40
Did anybody hear Martinez interview prior to the Wigan game yesterday? When asked about leaving a few first teamers out his reply was what is the point of having the infrastructure at a football club if you are not going to give the youngsters a chance. A couple of his looked OK too, if he comes to us I hope he brings Kone with him.
Barry Rathbone
482 Posted 18/02/2013 at 10:49:19
Thanks Paul, great report with insightful comments I completely agree with players playing meaningful games the loan arrangement seems ideal for all the reasons you mention.

Interesting your Barkley critique, his tendency to over elaborate at the wrong time is a consistent theme and on this I can see Moyes's thinking not playing him. Aston Villa had "Sid" Cowans in their title winning side who was had similar problems in the the end the manager Ron Saunders told him straight out he wasn't Pele and get on with the effin' job ó and it worked.

Paul Traill
491 Posted 18/02/2013 at 11:19:35
Rob - Moyes was sat quiet for most of the game. At one point in the second half he went down and had a chat with Holden and Stubbs but sat and observed otherwise.

Sam - Sorry, I must have somehow left McAleny off the ratings. Conor did play and had an alright game. Was quite tricky for Middlesbrough to handle in and around the flanks but his most impressive attribute was his pace and his willingness to get back and defend. I'd give him a 7.

Steavey Buckley
499 Posted 18/02/2013 at 11:34:23
The academy is no alternative to playing somewhere in the football especially in the Championship if no 1st team action beckons. A disinterested Vellios, by all accounts, an example of someone who does not rate the Academy.
Paul David
507 Posted 18/02/2013 at 11:45:02
Steavey

I like Vellios and has impressed me when he has played for the first team. When I hear about him putting this type of performances for the reserves my initial responce is that he should be putting as much effort into reserve football as first team football. All it does is give pro-Moyes supporters the ammo to say he is right and Velios isn't ready for first team football.

Then I remember how Anichebe was allowed to constantly put this type of performance in for the first team and still get picked week after week untill his next injury. So is why is the manager right to hold back a player who doesn't work hard in the reserves but its ok to pick someone else who does the same when it really matters?

Steavey Buckley
533 Posted 18/02/2013 at 12:45:52
Baxter also commented about life in reserve football. He said something about pub teams being more competitive and their stronger desire for 3 pts. And the highs of local players when they obtained or lost 3 pts for their teams.

Some time ago, Moyes wanted to enter a young Everton team in a non league to give them more competitive matches and the need for 3 points. But was turned down by the Football League in view of conflict of football interests. Maybe the Football League think that Everton 1st team are destined for non-league football along with a team already in it.

Steve Higham
566 Posted 18/02/2013 at 15:40:41
I went to the game myself yesterday. I would encourage everyone to go and support the lads. It was a enjoyable afternoon out and great to watch a match without too much hanging on it.

I was quite impressed with the football played. I agree with Paul; Barkley has all the attributes but just needs to play it simple as he does over-elaborate sometimes. Vellios was not interested which I found strange as Moyes was there.

I thought Lundstram and Stones had good games. I would give Junior MotM.

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