Blocked Pathways for Under-23s

Martin O'Connor 30/01/2020 77comments  |  Jump to last

The objective of any football academy is to produce good footballers, some of whom, it is hoped, will become first-team players for the football club. For the ones who don’t make it as first-team professionals, it is hoped they will make it at another club, even if it is in a lower league, many it is hoped will leave with a transfer fee attached.

In the last 4 years, Everton Under-23s have won the Premier League 2 title twice: in 2016-17 and 2018-19, along with the Premier League 2 Cup last season. All Blues can celebrate these achievements but it cannot be lost on the Club that the first and really only priority for the Academy is to produce footballers who can become first-team players. Yes only one or two of any batch of youngsters may have a chance of becoming first-team players but the whole aim of any Club’s Academy is to produce these one or two players; winning youth titles are just the cherry on top of the cake.

Which brings me to the current state of the Everton Under-23s. First, it must be said that, in the last 4 seasons, four players have come through to become first-team players: Dominic-Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies, Jonjoe Kenny and Mason Holgate. In Holgate’s case, it is only this season, after a season at West Bromwich Albion on loan, that he has become a first-team regular.


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In Kenny’s case, he has made 40 appearances for the first team and is at present on a season-long loan at Bundesliga side Schalke, who are interested in signing him permanently. So not all is gloomy, although I think the jury is definitely still out on Davies and Kenny.

But, these four apart, it increasingly seems to me that Everton have a reluctance to promote and give first-team chances to the most talented of the Under-23s. More worryingly, it also seems that the Club are reluctant to make any real hard choices on Under-23 players who have been part of the set-up too long and should be moved on.

First, let's look at first-team opportunities. We have four Under-23 players who are now, when you go to the Clubs website, part of the first team squad, namely forward/winger Anthony Gordon, defender Lewis Gibson and midfielders Beni Baningimme and Dennis Adeniran. We often get good announcements from David Unsworth about the Under-23s but one must question why none of the above players have been given a chance this season, except for Gordon’s short cameo against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup and a 2nd-half appearance in the Premier League at West Ham United. The home draw with Newcastle United was a game with some strange substitutions were surely Gordon should have been one of the players brought on... but no; we got Niasse!!!

Lewis Gibson, as a 19-year-old centre-back, is not ready for any first-team apperances at present and a loan move would seem to be the next step for him. Baningime is a slight exception here as, at one stage, it seemed he was destined to become a player who would get regular first-team playing time and he has made 12 appearances for the first team. But an injury-wrecked loan spell at Wigan Athletic scuppered what seemed an upward trajectory. With the injuries to Gomes and Gbamin and some rubbish performances from Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, and Delph, surely he should have been given a chance this season?

The same goes for Adeniran, who has been one of the better performers for the Under-23s since he joined the Club from Fulham. With the way we have performed on many occasions this season, would our midfield have been worse off if Adeniran or Baningime had been given starts ahead of Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson or Delph?

If the Club really does think so much of Anthony Gordon, then give him some starts – even if it is off the bench. Look at Manchester United, who have given Mason Greenwood starts (and typically he gets the equaliser against us at Old Trafford). We don’t have to go anywhere to see that half of Liverpool's Under-23 team outplayed us in the FA Cup nightmare as well as progressing to the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup. An unrecognizable Arsenal team held us 0-0 in the December bore draw at Goodison Park.

It may just be me, but it seems reluctance is creeping in at the Club to blood what should be seen as the cream of the Under-23s crop. Although I do think Anthony Gordon will become a first-team player and will get more game time before the end of the season.

Which brings me to the second and more pertinent point of this article. Although two PL2 titles and a cup have been won since 2016, we have a number of Under-23 players from those successes still playing for the Under-23s who have yet, to be honest, never once looked like they would get anywhere near the first team. Some are older than others but I do question why we have never made any decisions on players such as Matty Foulds, Morgan Feeney (a loan move to Tranmere Rovers is nearing completion), Nathangelo Markelo... although Antony Evans has finally moved to Bundesliga outfit Paderborn for an undisclosed fee).

Then we have the perennial loanees, such as Kieran Dowell and Callum Connolly, which leads me to think that Unsworth and his staff are not ruthless enough in making decisions on players who will not make it at the Club and need to be moved on for the sake of their own careers as well as freeing up spots in the Under-23s for other up-and-coming players.

Antony Evans in particular, at 21, has only now been allowed to leave. Surely a decision on Evans should have been made earlier as he never seemed up to making it as a first-team player? Foulds, Feeney and Markelo I would also put in this boat, yet all are still stalwarts of the Under-23s. Then we have Dowell and Connolly, for Christ's sake, out on loan yet again... just get rid! No-one can think these two have a chance at the Toffees, yet we have never moved them on permanently. Unsworth and the Club in general are too soft and sentimental because we are all “one big family”.

For the Under-23s two cases in particular stand out. The first being Harry Charsley. Released last Summer by Everton, Charsley picked up an injury and could not find a Club. To quote David Unsworth:

"He got injured on our watch so we felt we had an obligation and we felt we had to do the right thing by offering him a six-month contract which we duly did and obviously got him fit over pre-season and got him a few games and profile in the shop window.”

All well and laudable... but is this the right thing to do? Yes, we could let Charsley recuperate and train at Finch Farm but not hand him a 6-month contract that in reality saw a place in the Under-23s blocked by a player we had already released. Charsley played in 14 games for the Under-23s from August to January before he finally left the club earlier this month.

Then, we have the case of former blue Jose Baxter. Suspended by Sheffield United for a failed drugs test, given a ban from the game by the FA and then released by Sheffield United once his ban was served. So step in good old Everton with both David Unsworth and Bill Kenwright coming out with gushing nonsense about giving Baxter another chance as he is “one of us.” So, in January 2017, at the age the of 25, he was given a 1-year contract by Everton to play with the Under-23s and get his career back on track. No thought about him blocking space for any of our younger up-and-coming young players.

Even the tale of Brendan Galloway seems strange. After his steep decline following disastrous loan moves to West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland, he came back to the Blues, where Unsworth said that the Club had to “rebuild him”. Nothing wrong with this as Galloway was still young enough to play for the Under-23s. But this seemed just another case of letting him play to get his career back on track. Is this what the Under-23s are for?

Once Galloway had played himself back into form, he was allowed to leave on a free to Luton Town last Summer. But the Club had no intentions that Galloway would get back into the first team; so, as this was the case, he should have just been released on his return from Sunderland instead of being played in the Under-23s.

The Liverpool Echo quoted Director of Football Marcel Brands at the Club's recent AGM saying:

“Anthony Gordon, a young boy of 18-years-old, is really knocking on the door to get his minutes in the first-team.

"That will be one of the goals for Everton in the future, to allow our young players to develop in our Academy and to create the best environment for them and, finally, to bring them to the first team.

But Everton must now find a 'very good solution', as Brands put it, to the question marks still hanging over their Under-23s set-up and the players within.(Liverpool Echo – 14 January 2020)

I can’t argue with what Brands is saying – although, as Director of Football in place since the Summer of 2018, maybe he should have by now come up with a solution to the “question-marks still hanging over their Under-23 set-up and the players within.”

In my view, a good start would be to make earlier decisions on Under-23 players who are not going to make it at the Club. Stop sentimental nonsensical decisions such as on Charsley, Baxter and Galloway, and give the few talented players who may have a chance a proper pathway to the first team. Without this, it would seem that the much-vaunted Academy pathway at Everton is either blocked or worse – just a chimaera.

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Reader Comments (77)

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Kevin Prytherch
1 Posted 30/01/2020 at 10:28:43
I think there is a place for more senior U23s in the squad, however we must be brutal when players of superior ability come through.

For example, 2 seasons ago (I think) we had Browning and Galloway starting the U23 season at centre-back. Throughout the season, Feeney and Gibson performed well enough and consistently enough to start to replace them. They had to fight their way into the team and make sure they played better than their elder counterparts to remain in the team - which is what they would have to do to break into the first team.

Would they have performed this well if their place in the U23 team was guaranteed??

I do agree with most of the article though; we are seemingly reluctant to try younger players. I do think this may be due to the toxic atmosphere created by fans. Davies, Holgate, Kenny and Calvert-Lewin have all received abuse far above and beyond any other player (maybe with the exception of Schneiderlin), do we really want to subject another youngster to that unless we are sure they'll make it?

Sam Hoare
2 Posted 30/01/2020 at 10:29:32
Good piece. I've been saying similar things for a few months now.

The U23 team's job is not to win trophies. It is to produce players for the first team. And that has not happened enough.

We have one of the oldest U23 teams in the PL2 and it is blocking the way for the talented 17- to 19-year-olds. By 20 most decent players should be experiencing first-team football either with us or more likely on loan to the championship or elsewhere.

We have been keeping hold of players for too long and, perhaps this is unfair, I feel the U23 setup has at times prioritised winning games over developing players. And doing it without playing the same formations and style as the first team. Big sort out required.

Phillip Warrington
3 Posted 30/01/2020 at 10:48:29
To me, Beni Baningime was the biggest killing of talent, when the lad played the couple of games he did he never looked out of his depth. You were left thinking a full season under his belt and we will have a world class player here.

But, in the true Everton tradition, we thought, No, we would lend him out and let someone else take the chance – and it backed fired badly.

And then, to top that off, we go and buy a past-it
payer in Delph. From what I have seen of their current abilities, Beni could easily do what Delph has done, plus more.

Andrew Ellams
4 Posted 30/01/2020 at 11:04:14
The lack of progression for youngsters is a symptom of the modern game which is success now and overpaying for foreign players who sell shirts before they play a game.

I have a feeling the Premier League is about to feel the full force of becoming a brand above being a sport of the next couple of years and it's not going to be pretty for clubs like Everton if they don't plan for it.

Tommy Carter
5 Posted 30/01/2020 at 11:15:00
The club needs to be more ruthless and cull players at earlier ages. The travesty of keeping the likes of Dowell, Pennington, Garbutt, Galloway, Browning etc well into their 20s has done nobody any favours.

Holgate has previously had runs in the side and shown enough to be considered a squad player worth keeping. That was based on what he was already capable of doing. Not some pipe dream of what he could become.

Make no bones about it, he is starting in the team now outbof absolute necessity. Because when the alternative is to play Michael Keane then it's an easy decision to make.

Alternatively, Kenny was assessed as not being ready based on what he has already shown. And provisions made to bring in a top class right-back and we therefore signed Sidibe.

The best thing for Kenny and EFC would be to part company for a transfer fee this summer. He's had an okay time at Schalke but when faced with top-class opposition he has struggled.

Clearly he was targeted by F.C. Bayern Munich at the weekend as the weak link. I don't think I have ever seen such a dominant attacking display.

The option is to then bring him back well into his 20s with a question mark above his head.

For me, and I know many do not agree with me but if you are not showing signs of improving our first team by the age of 20 then simply move the player on permanently. Insert buy-back clauses if you really are that paranoid about missing the ‘next big thing'.

Clive Rogers
6 Posted 30/01/2020 at 11:27:42
I am reading in the papers this morning that, now that Brexit is going ahead, the FA wishes to reduce the quota of foreign players allowed in a 25 man squad from 17 to 13. Obviously the purpose is to increase the proportion of homegrown players.

Although still merely a proposal, this would increase the pressure on clubs to bring through local talent. We need to be ahead of the game and give players with potential first-team chances.

Mike Oates
7 Posted 30/01/2020 at 11:28:32
The U23s League set up as Unsworth has stated is a waste of time, in its current format it doesn't serve anyone.

Once a talent has been identified at say 17, 18 or 19, and all clubs know their real talent pool, (Gordon, Simms, Onyango for us) these lads need to go out on loan to be tested against MEN of 21- 30-year-olds, not put in U23s playing against 17- 21-year-olds. It doesn't do any of them any good at all.

They never progress to a level, where even if they are not good enough for Everton they are valued at £5m+ for sale to a Championship, or League One club. They don't stand up physically to the demands. Look at Dowell, Galloway, Charsley, Evans, Virginia, and many more who just can't get into the first team of any of the clubs we loan them to at 20, 21, 22 years old. We give away free at the end of for £1-2m in the case of Browning and Robinson (who I always thought deserved a chance to replace Baines).

Man City have developed a B team mentality (ex Barcelona philosophy) where the youngsters from their Academy at 16 to 19, or their similar age acquisitions, are sent out for development - to New York City, Melbourne, Vitess, Girona, NAC Breda (part of the City Football Group, CFG, run by dedicated CFG Coaches, and the DoF at City). If they prove they can cope, only 3-4 chosen a year, to review by DoF and Guardiola who will personally vet them and again if good enough brought back to the Eithad. Very few make it, but a lot get sold on for some profit.

Guardiola has personally stated he hates himself for not bringing in young players but he says he can't do it in a Top 6 European team, he can't give game time unless he's got a real talent, eg, Foden. He could only do it at Barcelona as the B team mirrored the 1st team style.

We will find the same problems if we ever want to progress; we can't afford to give too many kids a chance.

Andrew Ellams
8 Posted 30/01/2020 at 11:28:55
I don't understand why the academy league is an U23 league and not U21. How many outfield players have had their breakthrough at 23 at any top club?
Robert Tressell
9 Posted 30/01/2020 at 12:38:07
It isn't just us. English football remains miles behind. To me, it is embarrassing how few young players we bring through and how limited their skill set and tactical understanding.

The main reason Feeney, Baningime, Adeniran and others aren't playing is lack of quality. Top championship sides would be chasing them for loans if they were good. The fact Feeney has gone to Tranmere aged 20 speaks volumes. He won't make it. The real work needs to start with much younger age groups with better coaching.

Chelsea are reaping the benefits but it took years. But once the right set up is in place it should then be a conveyor belt of prem quality players with the odd absolute gem every few years. Bilbao, Lyon, Ajax all do this. We can do it too. And when the next Dowell turns up, send him to Holland aged 18 to progress his education rather than lower leagues to watch the ball fly over his head alongside players who can't control his passes.

Gibson, Simms and Gordon look like they could make it and may also benefit amongst more technical players in a decent league. Although I'm hoping Gordon in particular is around the first 11 by the start of next season.

Rob Dolby
10 Posted 30/01/2020 at 12:54:43
Coming at this from a slightly different angle. A young boy who joins the club at 10 years of age shows lots of potential and is rewarded with new contracts up until the age of say 20 so that's 10 years of service to the club. His parents have also travelled the length and breadth of the country supporting their child and club.

In my opinion, the club have a responsibility when releasing youngsters that it is done in such a way that it helps the youngster to either keep looking for a career in football or helps to provide opportunities for the youngster to progress into a work place.

I know posters above want some kind of ruthless approach in jettisoning young footballers I don't see how that is constructive for anyone. I just think that, as a club, we do our best for the youngsters to adapt to life outside of the club and applaud them for it.

The glass ceiling from U23 to the first team is another issue.

The lack of philosophy at the club due to changing managers doesn't help. All prem clubs are awash with money and buy ready-made 1st team players and we are no different.

Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd stockpile youth players and have the same issues. We still blood more youngsters than most clubs.

Tommy Carter
11 Posted 30/01/2020 at 13:04:15
Can someone explain to me how on earth Kieran Dowell ended up with a £20k-a-week contract???
Rob Dolby
12 Posted 30/01/2020 at 13:19:43
Tommy the same way Garbutt did. The club didn't want to lose them for nothing and hoped that they could breakthrough.

In Garbutt's case, as soon as he signed the contract to be a millionaire he lost all appetite for the game. Dowell is looking like following him out of the club after signing a relatively large contract.

£20k is a lot of money though I am sure there are players sitting on much larger contracts at Chelsea, Man City or Man Utd rotting in the U23s. Loftus Cheek was on closer to £100k per week at Chelsea.

Christine Foster
13 Posted 30/01/2020 at 13:36:43
No... I'm afraid I take a different perspective on this.

All footballers mature at different times in their lives, one may hit their full capabilities at 18, another at 23 so there is a case for keeping the fringe players until they have reached the peak of capabilities or not. That's a judgement call of the club. Investing 10 years in a player to dump at the final hurdle is just plain stupid; why have a youth policy at all?

Secondly, players perform better in a strong team, they develop better with better players around them or players with experience to learn from.

Take for instance a promising centre forward, he, like every centre forward, is dependent of service quality, without it he well never improve. If we have just a bunch of kids all learning their trade together, the chances of any making it are significantly reduced. Players improve when playing with better players... that happens at every level of football. Getting rid early will inhibit the chances of the better players improving to the point of stepping up to first team.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
14 Posted 30/01/2020 at 13:47:19
Please see my post yesterday about Dowell.

£20k a week means a higher income in a year than I earned in 38 years of work and I ended up one level below senior manager at a major multinational. It is all about appetite for the game.

Kieran Kinsella
15 Posted 30/01/2020 at 14:02:39
Robert Tressel @9.

Agreed. We as English seem to produce one-trick ponies. Stones can dribble out from the back but the rest of his game was supposed to arrive magically with “maturity.” Man Utd have the Welsh kid now who can run really fast but he's young so all the skills he lacks will supposedly appear when he's about 25.

Kids from other countries seem to have more balanced skill sets than ours.

Kieran Kinsella
16 Posted 30/01/2020 at 14:38:31

The Jose Baxter "prodigal son" thing was ridiculous. The actual prodigal son returned and said "treat me as one of your hired servants." Thing was, he was the man's actual son.

Jose was a hired servant and not Unsworth's son. There was never a parable of "The prodigal hired servant." Moreover, with FFP we don't have a fattened calf to feed him as Morgan Schneiderlin ate it. Similar with Charsley, who we gave six months to find a club. I'm sorry but he's had about 8 years to find a club whether it is proving it with Everton or somewhere else and he has failed to do so.

I realize their wages may be minimal. But, with FFP and possible relegation one day, we've seen so many clubs laying off hundreds of non-football, lowly paid staff. Point being, money wasted is wasted and it all adds up.

Tommy Carter
17 Posted 30/01/2020 at 14:43:26
@14 & 12

I take both of your points. But there's still a large explanation required.

Dowell has achieved precisely nothing in the senior game. He has achieved precisely nothing at Everton Football Club.

Apart from a short spell on loan at Nottm Forest, he has shown little to no promise of being able to make any meaningful impact on the Everton first team.

As far as I'm aware, there has been no interest from a club bigger than ours in taking Dowell off our hands. Therefore, how did £20k become the going rate for the terms of his contract??

It's staggering beyond belief. This must mean someone was willing to offer him the same money to take him off our hands? Who was this?

Peter Gorman
18 Posted 30/01/2020 at 14:52:20
"No... I'm afraid I take a different perspective on this. All footballers mature at different times in their lives, one may hit their full capabilities at 18, another at 23 so there is a case for keeping the fringe players until the have reached the peak of capabilities or not."

Exyactly, Christine – the simple fact is that there is next to no way of truly knowing which player will make it as their progress will vary from season to season. Sure, the talent of Rooney was obvious from the age of 15 but so was that of Jose Baxter. The obvious counter example is Leon Osman who made his debut aged 21 and didn't really make the first team until he was 23!

In the case of Osman, he kicked about the reserves doing nothing for a few years after winning the FA Youth Cup at 17 and then suffered a year long injury before a couple of loans out.

Does this not sound very familiar? There are more than a couple of players on our books who've had the misfortune to miss years of development due to injury. Yet by the logic above, Osman should have been 'got rid'. I am aware that he always split opinions on this site but he also won caps for England.

The sad truth is that Everton have a ready-made excuse in not blooding youngsters as Andrew Ellam point out, but where there is a will there is a way - as both Man Utd and Liverpool have shown over the last few years. There is no way that Liverpool are producing more talented footballers than Everton, the difference is their willingness to blood them (and the small matter of blooding them into a winning team, God help our kids).

It is a matter of fact that both Baningime and Davies in recent years were MotMs on their debuts, suggesting that they are to the manor born. If they've gone backwards since then I'd point the finger firmly at the stellar professionals that clutter up our squad and offer no example worth setting.

Tommy Carter
19 Posted 30/01/2020 at 14:56:44
The Baxter deal was a disgrace. We owed Baxter absolutely nothing.

As for giving Jeffers a chance on the coaching staff, again, a disgrace.

Peter Gorman
20 Posted 30/01/2020 at 15:00:25
Tommy, you are a hard man to please.
Jay Wood

21 Posted 30/01/2020 at 15:24:07
Very good thread this with lots of interesting counter points.

I nod my head in agreement with much of what Martin's opening post states, but also agree with Christine @ 13 that you cannot make a definitive judgement call on any player based on age alone for the very reasons she states: each individual matures and blossoms (or withers and fades) at different times.

I do think we have a tendency to retain some players at the academy longer than necessary. The Harry Charsley example is a good example of this. Released at the end of last season, but then allowed back albeit for an agreed short 'rehabilitation' period.

Perhaps honourable on one level - as David Unsworth said, he was injured in his time with us - but lacking in cold hard professionalism on the other. Because not only did he enjoy the excellent facilities to assist his rehabilitation, he was a permanent fixture in the U-23s this season until recently being let go a 2nd time in six months.

Worrying on one level that a (now) twice released player merited a starting spot. This implies the competition and alternatives for his position aren't very good.

There is always huge pride and satisfaction when 'one of our own' makes it to the first team. However, as stated by others including Pep Guardiola himself, managers and clubs constantly seek instant remedies and as such buy in ready-made foreign players.

Managers need results more than anything else to retain their position. As such, they go with proven experience rather than raw potential. Being recruited from outside the club, they are emotionally detached from the desire to see an academy make it to the first team.

Even before he took on the caretaker's role after both the Martinez and Koeman dismissals, David Unsworth was adamant that a number of his U-23s were 'ready' for first-team football. He was as good as his word in both his first games in change.

His one game in charge after Martinez went v Norwich, he gave the then VERY young Pennington, Dowell and Davies their first-team debuts.

In his 1st game in charge after Koeman went Chelsea in the League Cup, he started with Kenny, Davies and Baningime. In both games, none of them looked out of place.

The problem of playing young players is that they will inevitably have bad games when they get badly exposed. But it is not a trait of junior players only! We have had plenty of senior players down the years who regularly do likewise, but continue to get selected.

Very few managers hold their nerve and equally, the fan base can display intolerance and lack of patience with a young player, who as a result gets dropped.

With whispers emerging that David Unsworth is likely to move on this summer, I presume part of Brands' remit is to reform all age groups of the academy to bring them all in sync with how the first team intends to play. This is but one step to ensure consistency and continuity from the most junior level to the first team.

Within that revamped structure I would expect a more effective filtering out of the chaff whilst progressively improving all age groups as the remaining quality advances.

I think the whole academy set-up could benefit from such a shaking of the tree.

John Pierce
22 Posted 30/01/2020 at 15:35:45
Osman is the exception, not the rule. I posted on the Evans thread that players, even themselves, know quickly what level they'll make.

There are few examples of late bloomers to counter the reasonable argument that if a player is Premier League standard then he should be showing it by 19 or 20.

Our academy has produced little in the way of first-team players for some time. Moreover, Everton are buying youngsters in and failing to turn up potential from the local area. Stones, Holgate and Calvert-Lewin were all nabbed from smaller clubs. We just polished the potential.

So you have to ask: What are the scouting teams doing in our area?

I hope Brands revamps and overhauls a part of the club which is grossly underperforming.

The article is extremely good and well presented. Top stuff.

Rob Dolby
23 Posted 30/01/2020 at 15:39:44
Tommy, the Baxter deal was an EitC initiative. Again, I think the club need to be applauded for trying to rehabilitate a former player. With maybe lessons learned from Billy Kenny or George Green.

I totally agree with you over Jeffers. He couldn't wait to get away from the club as a teenager. I think he handed in about 3 transfer requests before he had played 30 games. How he landed a coaching job back with us is beyond me.

Kevin Prytherch
24 Posted 30/01/2020 at 15:45:52
Osman the exception to the rule?

Jesse Lingaard
Harry Kane
Didier Drogba
Idrissa Gueye
Ngolo Kante
Jamie Vardy

None of the above were first-team regulars in a top-flight team until at least 20 years old.

Michael Lynch
25 Posted 30/01/2020 at 15:51:26
Isn't it just the nature of the beast? The Premier League is the biggest and richest league in the world, a magnet for the best and most desirable players from around the globe.

The only clubs playing their home grown talent right now are Chelsea because they have no choice this season, and Man Utd – who are to be applauded even if they have been shite. Even Liverpool, when you consider league not cup games, only have Trent Alexander-Arnold from their youth set-up as a regular starter, and people are always banging on about their brilliant youngsters.

I think we're about average for blooding youngsters. The vast majority won't make it out of the U23s or the Academy to their club's first team. That goes for every club (except Man Utd) – not just us.

Rob Dolby
26 Posted 30/01/2020 at 15:56:55
John 22.

There are lots of non-league players plying their trade in the prem.

There are fine lines between non-league and Premier League and most of them are mental and not technical.

Do you think that Jamie Vardy knew that he was a non-league standard aged 20 after being rejected by Sheff Wed? Or that Harry Kane after a number of reasonably unspectacular loan moves thought that div 1 is his standard?

John Lundstram has played and scored in all 4 divisions and looks a Premier League standard player.

It's really fine lines when judging youth players. I wouldn't be surprised to see Joe Williams or Antonee Robinson in the Premier League over the next few years.

Derek Taylor
27 Posted 30/01/2020 at 16:16:42
I don't think Martin need fret over the failure of our U23 players to break through. I believe that time is nigh for Unsey and his cosy set up to receive a good going over...

Just watch this space!

Kieran Kinsella
28 Posted 30/01/2020 at 16:26:11

The issue with waiting on talent to develop though is the money. Luke Garbutt's contract was up and we hoped he would one day become a star so in a panic we awarded him a 5-year deal on £25k a week. So that's £6 million and the end result is he fails and leaves for zero.

If we'd stuck that 6 million quid in a 3% (rate of inflation) savings vehicle for 5 years then we'd have had £7 million by the time we realized he was crap which we could have invested in someone game ready.

If you multiply the wages of all the 17- to 23-year-olds not in the first team, all the wages of their coaches, insurance, travel costs, facilities, etc we spend millions and millions in the hope we "save money" by producing someone homegrown.

Additionally, because of limited term contracts for youngsters, you run the risk of losing someone half-decent (eg, Lundstram, Mustafi, Ledson) when they're 18 or 19 and decide to exercise their right to leave rather than go the Garbutt route. Best case you get some kind off an arbitrated "development" fee.

The other thing to consider is whether the likes of Jagielka, Lundtsram would have developed as well as they did if they'd stuck around the academy for five more years instead of putting themselves in a situation where it's do or die. Earn your stripes at a lower league club or find a different career.

As opposed to Dowell, Garbutt, having the comfort of a cushy contract making you a millionaire right off the bat so you've a nice nest egg to fall back on if you don't make it.

Tony Abrahams
29 Posted 30/01/2020 at 16:34:42
Take posts 9+10 combine them, get the best youth coaches around, and also school these young players with a proper education, so if they don't make it as a footballer, they are still ready to make a success of their lives, in whatever field they choose.

This is what Ajax did years ago, and they have also reaped the benefits ever since. Maybe it's different in England, 92 clubs, in such a small country, makes it so much more competitive to get the better young players, and it's no coincidence that Southampton do so well, because they are helped by the geography.

Talking of Osman, surely he'd make a great youth coach, especially because he was a very good schoolboy footballer, and then must have struggled physically for a number of years before finally coming through.

Ebbrell went to the national school of excellence, as a child, as did Francis Jeffers. (They took the best technical kids in the country, and turned most of them into text-book footballers? English coaching maybe?)

I'd be intrigued to see what Franny would be like as a coach, because his movement was second to none. If he could teach that talent to others, I'm sure he would be a very valuable person, teaching the14- to 18-year-old kids, which is an absolutely crucial stage of their development imo.

Don Alexander
30 Posted 30/01/2020 at 16:44:39
Well said, Keiran Kinsella! And Derek Taylor is in my opinion perfectly correct in using the word "cosy" when describing Finch Farm. Our training ground produces very little for our first-team in terms of improving those players we sign in or providing first-team ready players from the youth academy we run.

I am constantly surprised by the inability of so many of our players to control the ball in a way that makes continued possession a cause for worry, allied to the inability, consistently in many cases, to accurately pass to a team-mate at all, never mind in a way that worries the opposing team. Then we get to shooting accurately, with power. It's a rare sight, sadly.

All of this has long perplexed me as to what goes on a Finch Farm. All of the above can be improved by constant practice, as in all sports since the dawn of time, but it needs coaches who display the personality, know-how and desire to impart it to the players. It helps if lack-lustre performance results in the sack too but, managers aside, the rest of the Kenwright Klan repeatedly get away scot-free providing they always toe his line.

James Hughes
31 Posted 30/01/2020 at 16:47:13

Lots of people said giving Big Dunc a job was disgraceful, seems they were wrong. How do you know Jeffers is not worth it?

Jay Wood

32 Posted 30/01/2020 at 17:13:10
No surprise Tommy, but I really can't be doing with your absolutism of the players you name and shame. Each case is different and you can't lump all the players together as you do and tar and feather them with the same brush.

Let's filter out some of the chaff from the wheat in your comments. Let's deal with this one first:

"The travesty of keeping the likes of Dowell, Pennington, Garbutt, Galloway, Browning etc well into their 20s has done nobody any favours."

Pennington I agree with. He is now 25 and should never have been given his most recent contract extension. It was probably done so in the hope that we could generate a fee from one of his loan clubs when they signed him permanently. Good lad. He will – and is – having a career at a lower level. But it has long been obvious he won't cut it at Everton.

Garbutt and Galloway are examples of the over-generous largesse of Everton. Both initially impressed in a handful of appearances, but it's not hindsight to say they also had their shortcomings.

Still, on the back of those initial appearances, both were rewarded with excessively long contracts. That is why they stayed on our books for so long when neither did enough to impress their loan clubs to buy them.

Tyias Browning was struck down by injury at a crucial time in his development. He did 'okay' in his loans, but he never again looked like progressing to the first team as his academy history suggested he might.

Kieran Dowell is in a completely different category to all the above. Only a deaf, dumb and blind Pinball Wizard, Tommy, would deny that Kieran has exquisite innate football skills possessed by very few players.

'Dowell has achieved precisely nothing in the senior game.'

Apart from winning FIFA's U-20 World Cup with England, a tournament in which he displayed football talents equal with the very best in that tournament.

His skill set should not be in question. What Dowell seemingly lacks is the drive, the determination, to succeed at the highest levels of professional football. Maybe football comes so easily to him that his languid style counts against him.

For that reason, I can completely understand Everton investing in and retaining him as long as we have in the hope that the missing ingredient would suddenly drop into place.

For example, if Kieran had a droplet or two of another youngster you deride – Jonjoe Kenny – we would have a homegrown £50 million plus player on our books. Sadly, unless there is a radical personality transplant in Kieran, that is unlikey to happen.

Kieran is also an example of the random luck that may befall an academy player. Browning's development stalled due to injury at a crucial time.

Kieran was just 19, 3 months shy of his 20th birthday, when he first went to Nottm Forest in 2017. Under Mark Warburton he played every game, often the full 90 minutes. Warburton left (wasn't it to Rangers?) in January 2018.

To that point, Kieran had played in all 26 Championship games, scored 8 goals (including a fabulous hat-trick at Hull) and made 4 assists. In the final game before the incoming manager Karanka took over, Forest turned over Arsenal in the FA Cup 4-2. Kieran scored one and assisted one.

Pretty impressive numbers for a recently turned 20-year-old in the super-competitive Championship.

Karanka had a terrible start at Forest. Losing 4 of his first 5 games. Kieran, who had wowed the Forest supporters, was increasingly sacrificed as Karanka played a more pragmatic 'survival' game. In the final 8 games of the season, Kieran was not even in the squad for 5 games, was an unused sub twice and got just 13 minutes in total in his single sub appearance.

So fate played a big part in the second half of his time at Forest, but overall it was an extremely successful loan for both the player and Everton.

Back at Everton last season, Silva only gave him 1st team game time in a couple of League Cup games. He joined Sheffield United on loan in last year's January transfer window.

Peter Mills of this parish reported from his son-in-law, a Blades fan, that in Sheffield there was no questioning of his ability. The doubt, as expressed by Blues, was more about his desire in what proved a very tight and fierce promotion race.

Still, he featured in 16 of the 20 league games he was available for, scoring 2 and assisting 1.

This season it looked like Brands placed him cannily at Derby with his old PSV sidekick Phillip Cocu. This hasn't gone well. Now he has switched to Wigan and is getting more minutes in a dogfight for survival.

As previously mentioned, David Unsworth had no qualms in starting the 18-year-old Dowell in the Premier League v Norwich where he, Kenny and Davies lit up the place.

In the four seasons since then, not one of our many managers in that time has been courageous enough to use him in the 1st team.

Maybe they should have done, because each pre-season he always played as well as anyone, assisting and scoring some sumptuous goals. He also continues to play extremely well for the England junior teams.

As for your customary poke at Jonjoe Kenny, this is so funny on many levels:

'Clearly he was targeted by FC Bayern Munich at the weekend as the weak link. I don't think I have ever seen such a dominant attacking display.'

Jonjoe must be a hugely important player if he was singularly responsible for his side's 5-0 tanking at the hands of all-conquering Bayern.

Here are the highlights of Bayern's five goals.


At a stretch, someone supercritical may hold him partly responsible for the first goal, but it is clearly a goalkeeping error.

The heart of Schalke's defence was at sea all game and none but the final goal came down JJK's flank... and you can discount that as Kenny's fault as it was scored 10 minutes after he was substituted.

Kenny has been an ever-present in the Schalke team all season. In addition to his 19 Bundesliga games, he has 31 Premier League games under his belt also. 50 top, top-level league games.

"The option is to then bring him back well into his 20s with a question mark above his head," says Tommy.

He'll only turn 23 in March. Question marks, Tommy?

Here's a question for you, Tommy: Have you seen how Coleman (9 years older) and Sidibe (nearly 5 years older) have been defending all season?

Phill Thompson
33 Posted 30/01/2020 at 17:14:48
Well, for me, you can see that things are changing for our U18s and U23s. In the past week we've put out our youngest U18 team and our youngest U23 teams in recent years, both in cups and we lost both games to Reading and Swansea respectively.

We are definitely getting rid of the deadwood at U23s quicker, with Evans going, Feeney on loan – that's 7 from last years U23 team either gone or on loan. So someone, presumably Brands, is changing things and we're changing from perennially having one of the oldest U23s teams.

There is still a mismatch between 1st team style and U23s though – last Friday against Chelsea U23s we played with a lone striker and five in midfield at times. While Ellis Simms is nowhere near first-team ready, yet, he's unlikely to ever fit into Carlo's plans if he's not used to playing in a 2 or 3. It's simple enough really, we follow the Man City example where Pep sets the 1st team pattern and the other teams also play that way.

Unsworth has done a good job results wise but he's never struck me as an agile thinker who can adapt teams around new formations. I won't mind if we lose games with youngsters between now and the end of the season at U18 and U23 provided we can see some progression and development in the players, both in individual skills and in adapting to new formations.

Kieran Kinsella
34 Posted 30/01/2020 at 17:22:55
Phil @33,

I think a problem with Unsworth, and it may not be of his own making, is how he's judged. The official site and many fans seem to judge him on match results as opposed to player development.

If the focus is on him winning the PL2 then he's going to play the way that gets the best results.

If the focus is on player development then we may sacrifice results to improve individuals.

I get the distinct impression Kenwright and Co have been more results-oriented than player-oriented. I think that's changing and is probably why Unsie may be leaving.

Paul Richardson
35 Posted 30/01/2020 at 17:27:12
I agree (without any evidence) with Jay Wood @21 and Derek Taylor @27... it's Unsworth and the U23s set-up which needs looking at.

I get the impression (typical Old Boys' Club Everton) that Unsworth has a pretty free rein to play in any style he wants and bring in talents from other clubs to help his team win the PL2. Gratifying though it is, like the EitC initiatives, how does that help the first team compete at the top end of the most competitive league in the world?

Unsworth has built his reputation and been a PL2 winner... great. So why hasn't he been poached by a Championship club? Why hasn't he moved on? Has he actually tried to get a job elsewhere?

It's really easy and comfortable for an U23s manager to say so-and-so is ready for the first team... it's not his head on the block when it doesn't work out that way. We've all made bold predictions about 'the next big thing' at our beloved club, but then we are not paid to make those calls and do not work with those players day in, day out. Unsworth does.

Surely – though probably not – he must have performance targets linked to players making it to the first team squad on merit (not just to fill the numbers)? And especially in areas where the first team squad was clearly going to be weakened, eg right back (long term injury to Coleman, who hadn't been challenged in the position for years, so no ready-made replacement within the club); left back (Baines could not run forever, still no challenger on the books, so we had to go and buy Digne) being two of the most obvious.

That glaring gap means the club has to seek replacements, shelling out money which could have been better spent elsewhere on the team – a replacement for Lukaku for example.

On top of that basic requirement of looking to find and mould young
replacements who have a history within the culture of the club into positions where it is clear we need them, there is always space for the outstanding "maverick-like" youngster, like Rooney in the past, now Gordon and maybe Simms, to break out of the U23s to challenge first teamers, who the club would then have the option to sell on while still worth top money.

How many of them has Unsworth produced?

Peter Gorman
36 Posted 30/01/2020 at 17:30:19
If half the people here deriding the academy actually watched them, they'd wonder why the first team doesn't play more like them and not the other way round.
Christy Ring
37 Posted 30/01/2020 at 17:38:16
Very good piece, Martin, it's a huge step up from being very impressive at underage, to making it at senior level.

As Jay said, Browning looked the real deal, and when he played against Liverpool, we thought we had a star on our hands, but injuries curtailed his progress. The same with Galloway.

I agree Baningime and Dennis deserved a chance, as our midfield was very poor. Look at Robinson at Wigan, sold for £2m, and rumours AC Milan are to buy him for £10m, so you never know.

Kevin Prytherch
38 Posted 30/01/2020 at 17:59:33
Paul @35,

Unsworth has an understudy for Coleman – Kenny (who is playing exceptionally well on loan).

Unsworth has an understudy for Baines – Robinson (recently linked with Milan).

Also take Davies, Holgate and Calvert-Lewin into consideration, as well as Williams (who has been one of Wigan's best players this season) and we've had quite a few come through.

We constantly criticise Unsworth (with the same brush as Ferguson got criticised with), but surely if there is success at his level then they don't make the first team then the problem actually lies somewhere between??

Even people who criticise the age of players, well Holgate, Kenny, Dowell, Davies, Williams, Robinson, Baningime, Connolly and Calvert-Lewin were all around 18-20 when they won the U23s. Most went on loan soon after.

Last season, Gibson, Feeney, Adenerin, Fordon, Bowler, Hornby, Virginia were all around 18-20 winning the U23s again. Quite a few have gone on loan again.

A lot of posters are very quick to weigh in with opinions, shouting them as facts, when they are either poorly researched or widely speculative.

Steve Ferns
39 Posted 30/01/2020 at 18:18:37
Martin, I think your article is out of date, ironically, since the change of manager.

I say ironically, because I expected Silva to be the one to bring the kids through and Ancelotti to be the one to go with the tried and tested, ie, Silva to play the long game and Ancelotti to go short term. I think it must have been the pressure of the need for results that caused this as he has always brought kids through at every other club he has been at.

What's changed and why are you out of date?

Well Carlo Ancelotti has been including U18s and not just U23s in first-team training. 16-year-old Tyler Onyango in particular. A kid with a massive future. It's early days, but this shows Carlo is prepared to give a good look at these kids, and this really surprised me.

Antony Evans, I completely disagree with you about. I still thought he might make it until he left yesterday. Every time I saw the lad, except this season when Anthony Gordon was turning it on, he was the best player for either side. The lad has lots of talent and I'm scratching my head as to how he is 20 and has never played in our top two divisions and instead heads to Germany to a club destined for the drop.

The rest of the U23s have not had a chance because they are not good enough. There is no one in that side ready for the first team, not since Gordon stepped up. Gibson, Simms, and Virginia might get there if they improve. In fact, I would hope we can get rid of Niasse because Simms would then slot in as 4th-choice striker, so he is blocking the pathway.

For me, the situation is that last seaon's title-winning PL2 side was full of players who were good enough to win the league, but few had long terms prospects at the top level. The best performers, being short in quality, went on loan to the Championship to see if they could step up a level. The likes of Virginia sent back as he was not good enough, Bowler is struggling (although injured now) to get enough games for Hull, Hornby was only good enough for the Belgian top-flight, no one wanted Evans, Connolly, Joe Williams, and so on, could only secure loans at lesser clubs, with the reality that they are not good enough but with contracts long enough to keep them here if they come good.

The question is, what's happened to the production line? And is Unsworth stunting the growth lower down the line by picking "older" U23s at the expense of inferior 18- or 19-year-olds? The reality is we've had a few bad U18 sides for a short while now. Fortunately, Dobbin, Cannon, Carroll, Onyango, Astley and John are all 16-18 and look decent. So over the next 12-24 months we should see these guys emerge.

The other issue is our youth scouting, we cannot just rely on Merseyside kids. The dearth has coincided with a ban on our academy of signing kids from elsewhere. However, Dobbin is from Stoke, Onyango is Luton, Astley is from North Wales, and only Cannon and Warrington are Merseysiders, even if the former plays for Ireland. We need to get the scouting going again and bring the talent in at a younger age.

Brent Stephens
40 Posted 30/01/2020 at 18:43:10
Peter #36,

"If half the people here deriding the academy actually watched them they'd wonder why the first team doesn't play more like them and not the other way round".

Peter, that's a really good comment. Although it's only the U23s, I get excited by a lot of their play, unlike the stodge we've been enduring from the first team. They move the ball quickly from defence and through midfield. And our attacks are fully supported in numbers in and around the box.

Kristian Boyce
41 Posted 30/01/2020 at 18:50:01
Kevin #38,

Robinson was sold at the start of the season to Wigan, so technically we don't have an understudy.

Kevin Prytherch
42 Posted 30/01/2020 at 18:53:06
Kristian - I was referring to the fact that we had an understudy to Baines before buying Digne. We just didn’t trust him.
Terry Downes
43 Posted 30/01/2020 at 19:05:03
Robinson? Is that the guy who wasn't good enough for us but is currently on AC Milan's radar??
Darren Hind
44 Posted 30/01/2020 at 19:13:47
Funny thread, this...

Holgate has been our best defender - by a mile. Calvert-Lewin has been our best attacker - Again By a mile. Tom Davies has had a far better season than any of the multi-million pound signings in midfield.

Thats THREE regular first teamer's who have come through under Rhino's tutelage. THREE players who are outperforming the rest of the players. How many teams could say that????

If Silva wasn't such a moron, Kenny would have had no problem at all being better than Coleman and Digne to make it four.

Rhino (and every other Under-23 coach) could of course have done better, but you have to have the material to work with. How many got through the net and made it at another top club on his watch? If they were good enough, that's what they would have done.

You have to laugh. The club has spent £750M to get itself into deep crisis. We have been a burning wreck for years and have fans throwing stones at the fire brigade.

"Osman is the exception, not the rule"... I did think about making a list of exceptions, but I don't think my fingers would be up to it.

Robert Tressell
45 Posted 30/01/2020 at 19:40:23
Much as I love transfer season, I'd be delighted if we could become the Lyon, Ajax etc of England - bringing through local(ish) lads alongside very high-quality imports.

Football has been a very soulless sport for a while since the clubs no longer represent the communities they come from. The talent is definitely there but the coaching needs massive improvement.

Tommy Carter
46 Posted 30/01/2020 at 19:47:41
@24 Kevin,

Nor were any of those players wasting away playing U23 football or on loan spells at clubs who then deem them not suitable for their starting XI.

They were playing regular football and developing.

Jay @32,

You're too busy trying to be antagonistic to catch my point.

I certainly don't consider U-20 football to be the senior game. I'm surprised that you actually do.

Anyway. Dominic Solanke was awarded the best player of that particular tournament and he's a player I certainly don't think is good enough to play for us.

To use this as any kind of barometer is ludicrous.

Also, I watched the entire FC Bayern Munich vs FC Schalke game and this gave me a better overview of how Kenny played. You and others seem to take extreme personal affront when I say Kenny is not good enough. If you think he is, then that is your opinion.

My opinion is that he is not, an opinion shared by Silva, Brands etc. I'm not saying that we are right and everyone who disagrees is wrong. It is simply a matter of what happened.

Wagner feels he is good enough for FC Schalke. That is his prerogative. What is good for them certainly has no influence on what is good enough for Everton.

If you feel that Kenny is the answer to our problems, then it should play out as such this summer. Ancelotti knows talented players better than both you and I.

Paul Birmingham
47 Posted 30/01/2020 at 19:49:25
Good thread, and each to their own views respectfully.

I'd still vouch, to go back to a Central League style system where second teams would be playing each other and younger lads, got the chances to play and impress.

Good point, Darren @44, and perhaps the magic, “lost ingredient, for EFC – first team success on the pitch”, could be the significant factor in improving the through-put out of our younger teams to the first team.

If it was open age, it may harness more potential earlier, but it seems perhaps Marcel is changing the plans to try and get a faster development path.

It would be useful to see which Premier League team has the best through-put of youth players who transition to their first teams, across the last 5 years.

I'd say Everton, for all our views, is in the top 5; Chelsea, seem to be getting more through, and I freely stand to be corrected on this.

Long term plan is to save money, but will Everton eventually get this plan right?

Brian Harrison
48 Posted 30/01/2020 at 20:10:44
I don't think it's just Everton where the youngsters don't progress to be regular first-team players; it happens at most clubs. There will, of course, be certain exceptions to this.

I was lucky enough to see the first group of outstanding youngsters to make the grade – the Busby Babes – most tragically killed in the Munich air disaster. Then, Tommy Docherty built a side full of talented youngsters at Chelsea. Again it was Man Utd who did it again with their class of 92.

As Alan Hansen is always quoted: "You win nothing with kids," and statistically – apart from two exceptions in over 50 years – he is right.

We have had a few young lads come through the ranks and end up playing for their countries but not many. The ones I have seen who have done this are Brian Labone, Tommy Wright, Colin Harvey and Wayne Rooney. I may have missed somebody who played from 1956 till now, who was a kid and came through the ranks and ended up playing for his country.

Kieran Kinsella
49 Posted 30/01/2020 at 20:44:29
Wow, according to Darren Hinds giving Unsie credit for Dominic Calvert-Lewin's rise, then Unsie must be an incredible coach given Calvert-Lewin made his first-team debut within 3 months of joining Everton and has only ever played 9 games for the Under-23s.

Naturally, after those 9 games four years ago, Calvert-Lewin was the finished product and Koeman, Silva, Allardyce and Ancelotti have had absolutely nothing to do to improve him since he left Unsie's finishing school.

Jay Wood

50 Posted 30/01/2020 at 20:44:45
Tommy @ 46.

Nice deflection, Tommy, but just plain daft to try and taint me as being antagonistic.

I gave you the courtesy of a fullsome reply on the names you threw into the hat, agreeing with three you named as being retained too long, offering mitigating circumstances as to why two others were retained.

And - Yep! I thought you wouldn't like me reminding you that Kieran Dowell was one of five Everton players in the England U-20 World Cup winning squad. So this comment of yours doesn't surprise me:

"I certainly don't consider U20 football to be the senior game. I'm surprised that you actually do."

Tommy, we are talking about the premier global Fifa World Cup. Not PL2. The best teams and the very best players of each nation within that age group compete.

It shows the shallowness of your position that you blithely dismiss that competition, but also say if a player hasn't shown enough by the time he is 20, he should be culled. Very, very few sub-20 players 'make' a Premier League starting XI at any club.

As for Jonjoe Kenny, don't presume you alone watched the Bayern - Schalke game. So did I. It suits you to uphold your oft-repeated position on Kenny that he was targeted and exposed and portray it as him being exclusively responsible for the defeat. He wasn't. Bayern actually did most of the damage through the heart of Schalke's midfield and defence, NOT down the flanks as you imply.

As for this: "You and others seem to take extreme personal affront when I say Kenny is not good enough."

[Sighs and rolls eyes]. Grow up, Tommy!

I'm doing exactly what you are doing: offering my own opinion on Kenny. And I will certainly do that in defence of a player I see as being unfairly maligned, as you are prone to do with Jonjoe.

31 Premier League games. 19 Bundesliga games. 50 games in two of the best leagues in the world. He must be deceiving and making a lot of mugs out of a lot of people who continue to select him.

Annika Herbert
51 Posted 30/01/2020 at 21:00:01
Jay @50 and previous. Although I have tended to disagree with you on many points so far this season, Jay, on this particular subject I am in complete agreement with your points.

I also feel Jonjoe Kenny will become an important member of the Everton team next season.

By the way, Tommy, didn't you also write Antonee Robinson off?

Geoff Lambert
52 Posted 30/01/2020 at 21:01:57
Antonee Robinson just joined AC Milan for £10 million from Wigan.
Peter Gorman
53 Posted 30/01/2020 at 21:23:32
Brian Harrison - you may have missed out on the following coming through the ranks and playing for their countries: Gary Stevens, David Unsworth, Michael Ball, Jack Rodwell, Ross Barkley and Leon Osman.

Some of those are one-cap wonders, but so was Colin Harvey. The list of trainees that we released who went on to play for their countries might be even longer.

Steve Ferns
54 Posted 30/01/2020 at 21:25:10
The fact of the matter is, the key youth team are the U18s, not the U23s. If you have a load of good young players, then they will win trophies at U18 level. If they are not good enough at U18 level, then the U23s are just polishing some turds.

Everton's U18s have not won the FA Youth Cup since Tony Hibbert was a kid and won it in 1998. We've won the FA Youth/U18 League in 2014 and 2011.

Link this is a link to the last champions on ToffeeWeb. Scroll down to the bottom and see who were the main players. Harry Charsley, the now disgraced George Green, there's a list of players not good enough until you get to the bit-part players and see the likes of Tom Davies who was then 15 / 16 years of age and played a role in the play-offs part of the competition. If you read that we "snatched" the title, it was because that we did not have a good side, we had a team of battlers and at the end of the season Tom Davies, Kieran Dowell, and Liam Walsh emerge. The battlers like Harry Charsley, Joe Williams and Callum Connolly ultimately came up short on talent.

Click the link for the next season and you'll see that Tom Davies went through to the U23s and the first team in quick succession making his debut by the age of 17, so, on turning 17, he was into the U23s for his short stint before making the first team. Dowell and Kenny also went through the U18s to the U23s quickly. Antony Evans was in the U23s at the age of 16.

The pathways are there. Tom Davies, got (back) into the first team under Koeman at the age of 17. Other than Tom, all the other lads have had loans, some even left (eg, Liam Walsh) at a young age. So they end up in someone else's first team. And yet not one of them has got back up. The only ones who have are Duffy and Lundstram.

Lundstram was got rid of to create a pathway for Ledson. Ledson has since got back up to the Championship with Preston NE but is struggling at that level and out of the side. Ledson in turn was got rid of to create the pathway for Tom Davies. No-one ever envisaged John Lundstram developing into the player he has. Fair play to the lad for what he's done, it's a remarkable comeback. All the rest are proving on loan that they are not good enough, or leaving and failing to come up because they are not good enough.

Chelsea have Tammy Abraham, Fikoyi Timori and Mason Mount, but all of these lads had successful loans. Our kids are not having that.

The other more successful clubs are signing kids from all over the country. We have an academy transfer ban. Link We were not able to tap up the kids from up and down the country like the other big clubs and get away with it.

Addendum: I neglected to mention Antonee Robinson. Glad the lad did so well that he's got that move. Fingers crossed for him, it's sad that he never got a fair crack at Everton. The pathway was blocked for him.

Jay Wood

55 Posted 30/01/2020 at 21:31:14
I'd agree with your call on the U-18 group being the critical one in the funnel, Steve.

I think we had a chat within a thread on this very subject quite recently.

The alternative is I'm dreaming of imagined TW chats with Steve Ferns which is quite scary on many levels!

Peter Gorman
56 Posted 30/01/2020 at 21:34:50
I'd contest one little point there, Steve. You say that "no-one ever envisaged John Lundstram developing into the player he has" but that's not quite true, is it.

Lundstram represented his country from U17 to U20 level, as did Ledson (from U16) and Tom Davies (from U16 to U21). As endorsements of young footballers go, consistently representing your country goes a long way.

By comparison, Liam Walsh (a player I recall we both expected great things from) barely played for his country, nor did Joe Williams.

Steve Ferns
57 Posted 30/01/2020 at 21:39:38
Well, you're right in that, Peter, but the Everton coaches viewed Lundstram as being inferior to Ledson, who in turn was inferior to Davies.

Lundstram has mental skills which I think he developed after we released him. The lad was able to take the disaster of being let go and turn it into something that gave him drive.

For a player with England caps, he fell all the way down to League Two after leaving. He'd been on loan in the Championship and League One, but only a League Two side signed him. So, clearly at that point, no-one really saw a Premier League player there... or they'd have signed him.

Jay, we did have such a chat.

Dave Abrahams
58 Posted 30/01/2020 at 21:40:56
I've read all of the posts on this thread and two posters mention the appetite of the players who want to make the grade as a footballer. To me, that is the most important part of a player's attitude of becoming a professional footballer.

Kevin Keegan and Alan Ball were not natural footballers but they both strived and worked their socks off to improve their game, day after day. They wouldn't let anything stop them from achieving their goal. Ball was helped immensely, to be honest, by the help of his dad, who encouraged him every step of the way.

Stevie McMahon was signed as a scholar by Everton and turned up for training, hail, rain or snow, seemingly getting nowhere, never gave up. He had an aggressive nature and attitude and grabbed the chance given to him by Gordon Lee and never looked back.

I'll bet there were and are players like the three I've mentioned who battled their way to a future in the game while earning buttons as they made it to the top. Now, we read and hear about young players on fantastic wages and contracts who finish up getting nowhere. There doesn't seem to be any motivation to succeed any further once they have secured the rich contracts they were given at such a young age.

I know for a fact, when Steve McMahon had proved his worth as a solid and valued performer for Everton, he was on £300 per week, while Adrian Heath and David Johnson were on £900 per week but certainly no better than Stevie, so he went to the clubs who really valued him as a player and continued to strive and learn and become a better player.

A long-winded response by me here, but appetite and attitude will go a long way to help young players succeed, that is what is stopping a lot of young players from making the grade, that and too much money too soon.

Paul Birmingham
60 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:35:15
Good point Dave about McMahon, and he’d often be a ball boy, as a youngster, circa 1977.

Hard work and belief and look and good health is key, and I recall a young defender from around 1977-78, Pat Heard, whom was cited at the time to be one an outstanding defender.

He played a few, and I'm sure he ended up going to Villa after only a few months in the first team squad at EFC.

It’s always tough, but hard work, and professionalism, is the best basis to succeed.

This current squad often forget these basic attributes.

Carlo will sort them out!

Mike Gaynes
61 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:49:11
Steve #57, well said, and I'd add that even Lundstram's current employers didn't consider him worth a look until this season. He played only about 400 league minutes last season for Sheffield Utd in the Championship, rarely even making the bench. From mid-December to mid-April, a stretch of 21 games, he was on the pitch for exactly one minute. And he wasn't injured, just ignored.

Some players simply blossom late. Lundstram's almost 26. We'd have been waiting a long time for him to grow into a player.

John Pierce
62 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:58:28
Kevin 24. Sure there are examples. Now stack that up against the thousands of players who never made it.

That group are tiny proportion of players who make it after 20.

Kevin Prytherch
63 Posted 30/01/2020 at 23:13:11
John 62 – they're really not a tiny proportion. I would hazard a guess that the majority of players aren't playing top flight football until they are at least 20 years old.

Tommy (can't remember what number), Lingaard and Kane we're hardly setting the world alight on loan – much like some of our players, while the likes of Drogba were nowhere until their 20's.

The original thread was about paths blocked to the U23s, the bigger problem is paths blocked to the first-team. Robinson has just gone to Milan for £10million, but we preferred to play almost anyone at left-back if Baines was out before we signed Digne. We signed Oviedo – who was a squad player blocking progression for Garbutt and Galloway. We signed Martina who blocked Kenny. We signed Delph – who is blocking any centre midfielder. We signed Tosun who blocked Calvert-Lewin, we signed that shite centre back from Wigan who blocked Browning. There are few 20- to 21-year-olds in the U23s who we haven't had out on loan or around the first team. There are plenty of sub-standard crap that we've brought in that prevent them from developing in the first team.

However – which manager would want to give a young player a go if he was unsure with the abuse he's likely to face from our own fans if he misplaces a pass? We complain about players not making the grade, then savage the ones that do. Very hypocritical.

Phil Sammon
64 Posted 31/01/2020 at 01:50:27
So we all agree. All academy products should be kept on the books until they are 25. At which point we can consign them to the scrap heap, content in the knowledge that they will not play above Sunday League level for the rest of their careers.

Brands out, Sammon in.

Si Cooper
65 Posted 31/01/2020 at 02:32:15
I haven't read all the posts but I think many are missing an important point: we don't choose to operate an U23 team, we have an obligation to.

Everyone used to play their Reserves, who could be any age (above a minimum, I presume). The present structure was put in place to encourage clubs to develop their own youngsters.

Therefore, the club are operating in a way which might not even be the ideal (perhaps an open-age Reserves could help certain hopefuls develop surrounded by some knowledgeable old heads) and the fans have been given an ‘easy' yardstick to assess whether a player should have ‘made it' by now.

I honestly believe some players are bought mainly to pad out the junior roster with only an outside chance that they will break through.

If there are plans to further limit the number of non-Brits in English squads, then we may find ourselves slipping behind our continental rivals. It would be nice to think it would lead to an increase in the numbers of talented Brits but I suspect it will just mean some of the young no-hopers will get to hang around longer.

Eric Myles
66 Posted 31/01/2020 at 03:34:28
Andrew #8, Leon Osman
Terry Downes
67 Posted 31/01/2020 at 06:46:17
More to the point, whose the clever arse who let Robinson go for pennies? £10 mill to AC Milan – you couldn't make it up.
Tony Abrahams
68 Posted 31/01/2020 at 08:04:48
Very good post, Dave@58, because hard work will always be the key to becoming a real success, and I'm not sure this is drummed into young footballers enough during their early years. (It's no good just saying it, you have also got to show them it, to make them realise how good it is for you.)

Not just young footballers, I'd bet that if you asked 1000 ex-professional footballers, what is the one thing they would change if they got the opportunity again? Then at least 900 of them would say, that they wished they had worked harder, and possibly stayed in a bit more...

My own view of serious football is that it doesn't start until kids hit about 14 years of age, and I honestly believe that, if you want major results, then this is the age that the clubs should be looking to take the kids away from their families and make them start really concentrating on trying to reach their goals.

It wouldn't be cheap, because they will also need proper education, and also quite a bit of down-time, with being so young, but with the right infrastructure in place, I'm sure that whoever gets this model right first, will reap the benefits for years?

Tommy Carter
69 Posted 31/01/2020 at 08:20:16
Re Robinson. Annika and others.

I whole heartedly stand by my original assessment. I don’t care if AC Milan sign him. AC Milan 2020 are not the same team as AC Milan of 15 years ago. Not even close.

Do you think when they signed Suso and he became their star man, LFC were up in arms and full of regret? Not at all. Because they were building something much greater, with better players.

Just because AC Milan want to spend £10m on this player means nothing at all. Had we kept him, would they be spending £10m on him now? No way. He had to go and play football which to his credit he chose to do. But that doesn’t mean he’s automatically now better than Lucas Digne and worthy of a starting place for a club challenging for top 4 and trophies. Which is where we want to be. Digne, despite a poor run of form certainly is.

Kevin. By the time Kane was the same age as Kenny, he was playing for England having scored over 20 premier league goals in a season.

Despite what you may think, his loan spell at Millwall was very promising. His loan spells at Norwich and Leicester less so. But he wasn’t given much of a chance to show his worth.

As for Lingard, his loan spell at Birmingham was very good. He scored 4 in a game once. And you can also put him in a similar bracket to Kane and Leon Osman, in that preconceptions about his physique held him back. Inevitably as he became more robust and more mature, his playing time increased.

Drogba did develop later. Some players do. But they are the exception rather than the rule.

My argument is quite logical and quite simple. I’m not for automatically writing players off at 20. Not at all. But I’m very much for moving them on if at that point there is no clear indication that they will improve, not even supplement, improve our team.

Buy back clauses inserted to offset the risk of missing a Drogba.

The rationale is that when clubs commit to having a player on their books full time, it’s their investment and therefore their responsibility and in their interests to develop the player.

With some loan deals, I don’t see that the appetite is there. And when a young player inevitably has a loss of form or confidence, the clubs seem happy to let them struggle. Barkley was a key example of this, within 12 months he went from the bench at Leeds to playing for England. The difference being the faith Roberto showed in developing him.

As for Lundstram. He’s had a very good 6 months but people on here are referring to him as some kind of top class midfield general. They’ve just signed a top class midfield player from Genk. Let’s see how he gets on in 12 months

Ray Roche
70 Posted 31/01/2020 at 08:45:20

Like you, I realise that the likes of Lundstram would not be the players they have become if they had not left Everton because they needed game time. Same with Duffy, Mustafi etc.

However, Robinson left six months ago, not six years. His potential was there for all to see. AC Milan may not be the club they were years ago but their money is still as good.

Tommy Carter
71 Posted 31/01/2020 at 08:54:44
Put Mustafi, Robinson, Duffy and Lundstram into our squad. How much does it improve our team?

Put them in the Tottenham, Chelsea or Man Utd squads and none of them are getting a game.

I've seen plenty of Robinson and I'm quite comfortable with him having left us. Had he stayed with us, he wouldn't have had a minute of first-team football in the Premier League.

Ray Roche
72 Posted 31/01/2020 at 09:05:22
I think we're on the same page here, Tommy. The players mentioned have all been championed on TW by different posters but they wouldn't get in a team picked by me and only forged a career after leaving to get first-team football elsewhere. We'll never know if Robinson would have been good enough but he was clearly undervalued at Everton.
Tommy Carter
73 Posted 31/01/2020 at 09:15:55
Thanks, Ray. A sensible and balanced view rather than the insecure, instant backfoot posts of others.

Ones that got away. There haven't been many over the years.

Steve McMahon perhaps. Martin Keown... maybe. But importantly, they weren't doing it at our club to the level they would perform elsewhere. Hindsight is wonderful, but how long do you keep waiting?

Ray Roche
74 Posted 31/01/2020 at 09:23:35
Didn't McMahon leave over a wages/contract dispute? Keown was a better player after he'd left us, no doubt about that.

It won't be long before someone is clamouring for Gosling to come back. 😁

Dave Abrahams
75 Posted 31/01/2020 at 09:35:25
Ray (74), yes, when Stevie McMahon realised how much money other senior players were getting he went to see Howard Kendall about raising his money, Kendall came back to McMahon later with a paltry offer of something like £25, which of course was refused.

There was no love lost between Howard and Stevie, and I think it suited Kendall to sell and get rid of Stevie in order to buy again, possibly Trevor Steven.

Howard needed money to buy again after wasting, mostly, about £2M on players when he first joined the club, so by selling McMahon he killed two birds with one stone.

Ray Roche
76 Posted 31/01/2020 at 09:40:26
Thanks Dave. Maybe my memory isn’t quite as bad after all!
Peter Gorman
77 Posted 31/01/2020 at 12:31:01
Speaking of backfoot posters, Tommy - aren't you doing a little backtracking yourself.

Your most recent posts have a sheen of sense; there is definitely a good argument to saying players need to leave to improve over staying years in the reserves waiting for a chance that'll never come.

But that wasn't your argument really was it. It was something like (and I'm paraphrasing here), all these young players are shite. And it is a disgrace to offer them contracts. Because it is obvious that'll they never make it. And when they do make it, they're not good enough for Everton anyway.

Darren Hind
78 Posted 31/01/2020 at 15:36:49
Kieran Kinsella @49

I'm used to your ill informed comments which is why I generally ignore them, but I think you owe Rhino an apology.

I decide to reply to this post as it was you desperately trying to look clever and score a point. Ok.. where do I start ?

I could advise you to look at the period before DCL joined Everton and do at little research as to who coached him at Sheffield United.

I could advise you to do a little research into how many sessions DCL actually did under Unsworth even after he became a first teamer.

I could inform you that as a youngster he was played all over the shop by Koeman and fat Sam as part of the "development" you credit them with. They played him right, left and even wing back. Or I could remind you that he was hung out to dry by Silva, who all but killed him in the eyes of many an Evertonian by isolating him up front on his own. I
could also point out that he was playing very well for DF before Ancelotti even got here because Rhino and Big Dunc ALWAYS knew he would be better with a partner

I could also advise you to find out who urged the club the club to sign DCL based on an unshakable belief in his ability.

I could give you the name of the coach without whom DCL would never have been an Everton player... But I wont bother. You've got it all boxed off

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