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Improve The Youth System

By Mike Allison :  14/08/2007 :  Comments (19) :
Yes, I know its already quite good, but look ahead...

With Everton seemingly getting ready to splash some cash on Fernandes, and rumours of £10-12M being offered for Yakubu, I want to put forward the idea that actually, what Everton need is not necessarily massive investment in first team players, but a bigger, reliable production line.

Merseyside, the North-East and East London have always been the key producers of large numbers of quality English players, and with Everton seeming to struggle financially, it seems the way forward is not to buy overpriced players from second rate clubs (Yakubu) or admittedly classy foreign imports (Fernandes ? though don't get me wrong, I'd love us to sign him right now) but to produce your own players over and over again.

We already do reasonably well at this, we must have been the only Premier League club to have two homegrown goalscorers at the weekend, but given the number of scouse footballers produced over the years, surely we can do better. Already this season, we've spent c.£9M on bringing back two scousers who 'got away'. We should have been bringing them through all along.

This is not really intended to be a criticism of the current set-up, because with Hibbert, Osman, Anichebe and Vaughan already established as useful members of the first team squad, it's clear we're doing fine. I would argue, however, that we should look to be doing better than fine, we should aim to be the No 1 producer of young English talent in the league.

West Ham produced Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe pretty much all at once, and at least three of them can claim to be at or near genuine world class, and are coveted by the biggest foreign clubs in the world. This is the standard we should be looking at; imagine an Everton squad with players of that calibre, and without them feeling they need to leave.

Of course, Rooney came through our system, and before him the talented but idiotic Jeffers, and it's easy to pat ourselves on the back and say 'we're doing fine in youth development', but what we should be looking at is what's possible, not what's 'fine'. With Benitez seemingly set for a long reign of cash-splashing on Spaniards across the park, the only place where local lads will be truly developed and be given Premier League chances will be with us. I'm thinking the next Gerrard, Carragher, Fowler and McManaman, as well as the Rooney, Jeffers, Baines, Jagielka ? even Barton should all be coming through at Everton.

I'm no expert, and I don't exactly know what the methods are at the club, but I believe a bigger catchment and scouting system at a young age, and more methodical technique training should be allied with the right mental approach ? it's significant that in an old interview with Barton I remember reading he said that he only really kicked on as a player after he was released by Everton as it shattered his complacency and made him work his arse off.

Producing a first-team player every year, especially of the calibre of some of the players mentioned above, would totally negate the need for regular £10M+ transfers. I repeat, this is NOT a criticism of our current youth set-up, I just believe in aiming high. We are currently one of the best producers of young players in the country (probably top ten, maybe top five?), we have the motivation, and the talent pool, to become far and away THE best club at producing young players in the country.

Reader Comments

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rich williams
1   Posted 15/08/2007 at 05:36:21

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Best academy in the country bar none, lead the way in every respect. Consistently produce top players who make the first team or are sold on for a healthy profit, $60 million in transfer fees since the academy inception does not lie, four out of the five youngest goalscorers in the prem ...ever, plus Vaughan, Anichebe, Osman and Hibbert in the first team right now with endless exciting prospects to come. Improve the youth! Just keep up the good work!
2   Posted 15/08/2007 at 09:13:55

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If we do produce top class players through our own Academy it can also be self perpetuating. Remember when Burnley, West Ham and West Brom in years past and today Arsenal, had reputations as the best finishing schools, it attracted the best youngsters. It does mean that you need to find somebody for them to play occasionally and that may be the National team’s answer to the introduction of so many overseas born players.
Mike Allison
3   Posted 15/08/2007 at 10:49:08

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Rich, why be complacent though? We could still get more out of it. We should be producing players given the catchment area we’ve got, and shouldn’t need to release the likes of Jagielka and Barton, or be missing out on Baines. The ’failures’, or at least missed opportunities, of our academy cost us £9M in transfer fees this season. Liverpool won’t play any more scousers while Benitez is manager, we should have free reign over the region’s youth. A region which in the last fifteen years has produced some of England’s best players and two of the world’s. Maybe I should have said ’expand’ the youth system.
Mike Allison
4   Posted 15/08/2007 at 10:53:51

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In fact, I’m starting to think you didn’t actually read what I wrote, I dunno why I bothered responding to you, its all in the original article.
5   Posted 15/08/2007 at 12:09:47

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In fairness to the current regime I believe that the decision to release Baines, Barton and jagielka was predominantly based on the clubs inability at that time to justify the cost of running a decent sized acadamy.Whilst in no way professing to be an expert on this theme, I can speak from experience as my son plays reasonable standard kids football and whenever we attend tournaments during the summer or indeed during the season, the scouts from Everton comfortably outnumber any other clubs combined indeed just recently two of our boys were asked at a tourney if they would attend the efc academy (via their parents obviously)Also speaking recently to an Lfc fan whose boy is on Man United’s books, he claims he has no intention of letting him go to lfc as he was not impressed by what he saw during two weeks at lpool. Think I get the impression that we are already doing a lot of the things Mike suggests albeit on a low key basis (unless you attend junior football) and given the very thorough approach the scouts have taken to date, I would be suprised if there is much talent in the north west area that they are not aware of or monitoring. Certainly there appears to be more of a blanket approach from Everton than any of our neighbours who have a certain arrogance that they can simply cherry pick at will.
big blue bill
6   Posted 15/08/2007 at 12:32:27

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the last 6 goals scored by Everton have been scored by:
Vaughan, Osman, Anichebe, Lescott, Osman and Stubbs.
Almost 80% have come through the youth system. I think its working.
7   Posted 15/08/2007 at 13:01:00

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"I believe that the decision to release Baines, Barton and jagielka was predominantly based on the clubs inability at that time to justify the cost of running a decent sized acadamy" Don’t think we ever had Baines to release, he played for Liverpool schoolboys. Jags wasn’t there for long and Barton left because Baz Rathbone is a tit.

"West Ham produced Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe" West Ham bought Defoe from Charlton.
Jip Foster
8   Posted 15/08/2007 at 13:15:40

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Isn’t there an F.A. imposed limit to the catchment area we can recruit from anyway (I think it may be something like 35 mile radius). It’s designed to stop the big teams from poaching the best youths from all over the country, and allowing the local clubs to benefit, as they can eventually sell on the players to the big clubs.
Mark Stone
9   Posted 15/08/2007 at 13:29:00

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Isn’t it nice to have a few scousers in the team: the likes of Hibbert (Huyton, Knowsley); Stubbs (Kirkby, Knowsley); Baines (Kirkby, knowsley); Anichebe (Crosby, Sefton); Osman (Huyton, knowsley).

Oh shit ... none of them are scousers .. we don’t have one single lad from Liverpool in the squad, never mind in the starting eleven.

Not by the reckoning of the ’anti kirkby’ proposal debate anyway
Mike Allison
10   Posted 15/08/2007 at 13:31:27

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Vaughan, Osman, Anichebe, Lescott, Osman and Stubbs.
Almost 80% have come through the youth system. I think its working.>

Again, I’m not saying we’re currently doing anything wrong or badly, I explicitly say twice that my article is not intended as a criticism. I’m saying this is a strength we can build on even further, why be complacent, why settle for less than is possible?

As for the 35 mile catchment area, that’s all we need, we just need to have more kids involved and be able to retain and train even the struggling ones, like Barton and Jagielka. Football coaches seem to rule out the possibility of late developers, which has been proven time and time again to be a mistake. By keeping all our kids in an expanded system, we wouldn’t miss out on those quality players who don’t already look like world beaters at the age of 14.
Mark Stone
11   Posted 15/08/2007 at 13:36:23

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Jip, if thats the case we may be subject to some fa investigations over over Vaughan who is a brummie, and bjarni vidarsson who is from iceland! And don’t get me started on arsenal!

Sorry I’m being a tool, i think there is something like that at the centre’s of excellence but I think academy’s can pretty much have who they want to ensure that the best players get the best coaching and facilities.

If not what are Man U doing getting 9 yr olds from down under!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
12   Posted 15/08/2007 at 13:35:06

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You have to take into account the other factors in a players development as stated in another post where Barton needed the kick in the arse of being released to succeed.
If Jagielka had stayed at Everton would he have developed in the same manner as he did in Sheff Utd?
There are many factors beyond simple ability as to why a player breaks through. Luck plays a big part as well - Ossie didn’t look like he would break into the first team until we started 04/05 with barely any players and he got his chance and took it well. Now he has made 100 starts and scored in every game this season!
Mike Allison
13   Posted 15/08/2007 at 15:43:47

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’You have to take into account the other factors in a players development as stated in another post where Barton needed the kick in the arse of being released to succeed.’

That was me in the original article, that’s why I included the idea of some kind of mental training in the approach to youth development, as complacency seems to set in with quite a lot of lads who think they’ve made it cos they’re in a youth system. Its not hard to imagine a realistic system of targets and goals which keeps young players firmly aware that they have achieved nothing by playing for Everton U-15s. The kick up the arse could come without losing the player for good.
14   Posted 15/08/2007 at 15:57:28

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Sometimes it is the losing of the player that acts as the kick in the arse - these things are often unquantifiable and connected to many factors outside of the club and football. It is often this type of adversity which is the making of these players as opposed to ’a realistic system of targets and goals’
Stuart Beresford-Kelly
15   Posted 15/08/2007 at 17:08:33

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Just imagine Rooney and Jeffers hadn’t had scumbag agents around them sniffing a huge pay day? Admittedly Jeffers has suffered badly but I really think he could’ve been a 20+ a season striker if he’d stayed and developed. As opposed to foundering on the bench at Highbury. Rooney I don’t think has improved that much. If Tevez takes his role with Man U and makes it his own for the next 2 months Man U fans might be going "Wayne who?". Still it would be nice to unearth a few more diamonds with our youth system. As long as we can keep them grounded and away from leeching agents.
Rich Williams
16   Posted 15/08/2007 at 18:46:57

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Re: catchment area, there are FA restrictions on how far away you can recruit; an hours travel time at U7 up to 2 hours at U16 then you can pick up international players beyond that
John Charles
17   Posted 15/08/2007 at 19:37:24

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I think the valid point fro this guys article is:

Give the Academy as big as a budget as we possibly can.

I would also say keep in mind the competition and that half our catchment area is in the Irish see. -e.g. draw an hours travel time around Manchester and then Liverpool and note the difference in population.

Add in we have Blackburn, who’s academy budget is probably the biggest in England.

Personlly I think ouracademy has done great out of shoddy facilities... Perhaps you can say Everton, Blackburn and Middlesborough have the best academys in the country? Ours wasn’t for facilties , but in terms of cash transfer fee’s produced it is. Look at Vaunghy? hhow much would he command ifthe likes of Mido are 7m ?
Steve Ferns
18   Posted 16/08/2007 at 00:58:21

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In relation to Baines, Barton Jagielka. You can’t really blame us for realising them. I believe that this was in the aftermath of the departure of agent Johnson. We had to get rid of all players of that age regardless of ability. The sad thing is, had we not had to get rid of the entire side, then it likely that these players could have risen through the ranks and saved us a fortune. ironically, this justies your poitn and emphasises that we should spend sufficient funds of the academy to jusitfy the emergence of class players.

Next three off the production line:
Keiran Agard, another Kevin Campbell?
John Paul Kissock - needs to overcome Leon Osman style physical probelms to become the next Michael Owen up front. They tend to play him on the wing to keep him away from imposing centre halves.

Jose Baxter - the reserves youngest ever stirker. I’ve never seen him but I’ve heard so many great things. Rooney mark II? Sign him up Moyes. make sure this fella does not get away! (pay his dad £1,000 a week to be a "consultant"!)
Peter Singer
19   Posted 16/08/2007 at 13:39:59

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Fact is that both the catchment area and the size of the squads at all age levels is limited by the F.A.

You can have fewer players in the under 15 team than in the under 14. You can’t help but show some lads the door. Jagielka had fallen victim to this "decimation".

It’s damn hard to tell at the age of 14 who’s gonna make it to Prem level. There’s no amount of money that would make this decision easier.

Still, we obviously have a huge talent pool (what an ugly way to describe kids kicking a ball), we can’t have more players at the academy, so we have to improve our selection processes.

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