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The Best Academy in English Football

By Lee  Jamieson :  15/02/2009 :  Comments (34) :
I am elated having just watched us play Villa off the park when my son commented on how good Gosling and Rodwell played. I agreed with him and I sat for a moment and a thought occurred to me: we started the game with eight academy players in the squad and six of them were on the pitch. I concede that Jagielka and Baines were released and we bought them back; however, this is still an outstanding achievement for any team. How many of the current crop of top ten sides can boast having this many academy players in a matchday squad?

It must also be pointed out that Osman and Vaughan, both home-grown players, are out at the moment injured and would normally make the squad. It doesn?t stop there either as at the moment we have Ruddy and Jutkiewicz out on loan and Turner, Irving, Kissock and Spencer possibly ready to push for squad numbers next season.

I am wondering who to credit with this achievement and David Moyes must take the lion?s share of the credit as it has been his vision to reduce the age of the first team. He has made a conscious effort to move away from bringing in players over the thirty mark and brought in young often unproven twentysomethings.

Too often in the past have we wasted our time on players like Ginola, Gascoine, Jesper Blomqvist, Mark Hughes, Don Hutchison and John Collins. Some of these players were undoubtedly useful players who gave their all (others didn?t) but nearly all had hefty signing-on fees commanded big wages and left for nothing. Moyes was quick to see the poor financial return of these players and he has fostered a policy of buy young or bring through your own and I think we are currently reaping the rewards.

I also must also applaud the set-up of Finch Farm, which I have experienced firsthand when my son was scouted for the academy and I watched him play under the keen eye of the coaching staff until he was released late last year. The facilities at Finch Farm and indeed the staff are first class and I have to say far exceed those at Liverpool as my son has also played there. The setup at Finch Farm under manager Ray Hall is proving to be the model for all Premier League sides.

I have seen over the past five or six years a direction change from both Liverpool and Everton in regards to youth. I know from my experience in the local leagues that Everton scouts are ever-present on the local pitches, constantly looking out for the future stars, and they are on first-name terms with most of the children?s team managers. I would say that every youth sport event I have attended in the past two years has had at least one Everton representative attending. More often they have been sponsoring the event and there has been an area dedicated to showcasing the training and development at Finch Farm.

Everton?s links with the community have also impressed me, particularly in hard-pressed areas such as Kensington where every week they train local kids for free, whilst during the last five years I have watched Liverpool?s interest in youth dwindle. Although Liverpool scouts are around, they are far fewer than they had been and I think the emphasis on youth development at Liverpool has been curtailed under Rafa Benitez to the point that Blackburn Rovers scouts are now more prevalent on Merseyside than Liverpool?s.

I know the cynics out there will point out that Everton youth players have only been used due to a lack of squad depth but each time one of these players is retained and becomes a useful squad member, Everton save money. This also enhances our reputation and surely any young player would rather choose Everton to sign for as he will see it as a better opportunity of making it at Goodison.

Finally, I would like to point out the similarities between the current crop of young stars at Everton and the time Giggs, Beckham, Scholes and the Nevilles broke through at United. They all came through at the right time and were given an opportunity to develop in and around the first team and look at how well they've done. I see something similar happening at Everton and who knows if another Rooney comes along maybe we can hang on to him this time providing he wants to stay!

All in all, I think that the club has clearly channelled funds into the youth set up and it has paid off. Whoever is responsible, hats off to them and long may it continue.

Reader Comments

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Michael Kenrick
1   Posted 15/02/2009 at 20:49:18

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Fantastic post, Lee.

I have a question. How would you feel about telling us a little more of the experience that you and your son had coming thought the Academy and being released? I know the last part may be tough, as the worst thing in the world for a young blueblood is to be released... but I’d be very interested to hear your perspectives on the training methods, the emphasis in terms of playing style, the time spent on ball control, trapping and dribbling, on training strength and stamina... pretty much anything and everything you are comfortable telling us about.
Thomas Christensen
2   Posted 15/02/2009 at 20:57:37

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Fabulous post. It is interesting to read given that I live along way away. Nice to hear that youth policy is important to the team.

It was very pleasing to see how good Rodwell really is. We did pay for Gosling, Turner and Ruddy.
Jim Reardon
3   Posted 15/02/2009 at 21:01:05

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Lee, you're spot on with your observations. You will also find Liverpool coaches working soley in the Anfield area. The reason for this was to try and smooth the ground move through with the community.
David Alexander
4   Posted 15/02/2009 at 21:06:39

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I agree that Everton are turning out some impressive young players and have been since the late 90s when McCann and Jeffers came onto the scene but your maths doesnt work for me. 6 graduates in the starting 11? Well Anichebe, Hibbert and Rodwell yes... Gosling we bought when he was already playing league football. The rest of the side we bought (at bargain prices).

I also have to take issue with the waste of time comments about Hutchinson and Collins ? both were very good players for us, and it's the experienced players like that who help the kids come through. It must be much easier for the likes of Rodwell to play now knowing he has Pip covering his back and Arteta always willing to take the ball off him.
Ian Kearney
5   Posted 15/02/2009 at 21:09:42

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I think Finch Farm will be a huge plus for us, I remember Moyes talking of the benefits of having the youngsters and the first team on one base.
Stefan Tosev
6   Posted 15/02/2009 at 21:20:06

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I don't think we can count Baines and Jagielka as products of our Youth Academy, as they found their way after they were released from Everton.

However, Gosling, Baxter and Rodwell look like great prospects and long may it continue.
Alan Clarke
7   Posted 15/02/2009 at 21:21:21

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There’s a big guy in the under-15s called Hallam Hope who apparently has the makings of a fantastic player and he’s already taller than Osman!
Chris Lee
8   Posted 15/02/2009 at 21:44:21

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Hallam Hope looked fantastic in the Milk Cup last year. Ross Barkley’s also an Under-15 player but has seen plenty of action for the Under-18s this season.
Alan Kirwin
9   Posted 15/02/2009 at 21:51:10

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I echo what Michael & everyone else says, Lee. Excellent post. In fact, if we go back to the Jeffers and Rooneys of this world then we have clearly somehow been unearthing some of the best youngsters in the UK for more than a while.

It is massively satisfying to see Rodwell, Gosling and Anichebe do well. We also have Messrs Baxter and Agard, Kissock and Vaughan to come in the near future. It doesn?t just save the club money, it strengthens its ties with its roots and its fans, and of course it shows just what can be done with good coaching.

Bill Kenwright made a point about this a long while back. he was committed both to developing the club's scouting network and to the development of a best of breed facility to accommodate stars of the future. Finch Farm was the result. Kenwright takes some unbelievable flack on this forum, but this dedication to youth development is something he wanted & said he would deliver. I believe he, with the obvious support of manager & coaches, has delivered.

Rodwell in particular looks set for the very top, barring injury. To think that in 5 years this lad will still only be 22 is incredible. If a miracle should happen (and I?m not expecting it) whereby we somehow grab 4th place then one brilliant off-shoot next season would surely be the chance to play the kids in the Carling Cup.

We may still have short-term needs to service (Moutinho?), but looking forward I think it?s a magical feeling to know we have so many kids who seem to have what it takes to make the grade. That is clearly a tribute, not only to their ability and how they are coached, but the culture and philosophy that prevails within the club. Not dissimilar to Man Utd some years back.

The feel good factor is back & on steroids right now. Being Evertonians we?ll be looking over our shoulders & around corners, but it really feels as though something is stirring.
Graham Weigh
10   Posted 15/02/2009 at 22:32:31

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Shhhhh. Can?t we keep this quiet? We don?t want the RS changing back to the the policy hat brought Owen, Fowler, Carragher, Gerrard etc etc
Craig Wilson
11   Posted 15/02/2009 at 22:32:27

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It is the only way forward if we don't have the money and so far so good. Thought Rodwell was awesome today and bringing youth through has proved a winning formula for Man Utd.

Utd have a huge advantage over everyone they have money and a great youth system and they are doing it again just watched Gibson, Wellbeck, Evans & Co brush Derby aside.

Let's hope we get the chance of our young guns against theirs in the final in May...

Tom Campbell
12   Posted 15/02/2009 at 23:01:25

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"... which I have experienced firsthand when my son was scouted for the academy and I watched him play under the keen eye of the coaching staff until he was released late last year."

We'll probably end up buying your son back in the future.
Chris Arellano
13   Posted 15/02/2009 at 23:34:24

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Good informative article about a side of the team we don?t hear enough about! Especially interesting was the fact it was written by a father of a prospect who has gone to the EFC academy.

Thanks for taking the time.
Barry Jevons
14   Posted 15/02/2009 at 23:34:43

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Good shout Tom, made me chuckle!

I think what Michael Kenrick is asking you for Lee is a breakdown of how much time is spent training the kids to play hoofball and if, like the first team, they are only trained on how to defend!
Anthony Killen
15   Posted 16/02/2009 at 00:03:55

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My son's due at Finch Farm on Wednesday, and is looking forward to the occasion like a kid waiting for Xmas!
Will Leaf
16   Posted 15/02/2009 at 23:40:58

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Yes, excellent post.

It is always with grudging respect when you look at the marvellous youth talent Man Utd has brought along the past 20 years Their de-emphasis of the domestic cups has also allowed them to bring along their young’uns. Actually, Chelsea have always shown more respect for the FA and League Cups, Mourinho, Grant etc fielding strong sides more often than not. This may have had the adverse effect of never letting their youth get a look in.

Conversely, necessity has accelerated the exposure of our youth to cauldron like conditions, and they have performed admirably. How will they react when asked to sit down as senior members return? We are neither Man Utd nor can we afford to pay like wages. We are already nervous about Rodwell. Youth will not always make the rational decision and stay where they are most likely to achieve their highest potential; Jeffers certainly springs to mind.

However, Evertonians can rightly be proud of our youth set, and Everton’s admirable out reach to the community. In another era, this team, and what is developing at Finch Farm, would have had us challenging for top honours in the League.

But, we shall see.
Chris Stubbs
17   Posted 16/02/2009 at 02:08:32

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Good post. Very encouraging. Some time last month, someone commented on the fact that the days of the friendly derby seemed to be long gone. When I was growing up, both Liverpool and Everton were getting local players through their systems. Many players from both clubs were friends. This meant that the local derby was a friendly affair. Now that Liverpool has abandoned the policy of recruiting locally, the days of the friendly derby have gone.

I am really glad to see that Everton has a good group of locally born players. Our club has not abandoned the local community. If our neighbours had continued doing the same, the friendly derby would not have disappeared. I hope the friendly derby does return, but I also hope that Everton?s scouting system will not miss the talents we missed before. The fact that Owen, Carragher, McMannaman and a few others slipped through the net and ended up on the wrong side of Stanley Park is very disappointing. Maybe we have learned from the mistakes made during the 1990s.

Ciaran Duff
18   Posted 16/02/2009 at 04:42:15

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I’d like to add to Michael’s request. It would be good to hear how the whole Academy process works. Apart from the football side, I’ve often wondered how the "non football" side is taken care of, in particular education. Given that a lot of kids going through will not make it, then if it were my lad going there I’d want to make sure that his education wasn’t neglected as he may need to rely on it later.
Pete Jones
19   Posted 16/02/2009 at 06:30:30

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Yeah, fantastic post. Finch Farm is the key to the future, if we have any realistic chance of making it ?the big five?.

All credit to Blue Bill - this will be his legacy, along with his loyalty to Moyes. The future?s bright!

Art Jones
20   Posted 16/02/2009 at 06:52:34

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Great post! The father of one of our academy graduates is an aquaintence and he can?t speak highly enough of Finch Farm and Kevin Sheedy in particular. It?s great to know one of our ?greats? is involved in developing our youngsters. All bodes well for the future.
Jason Lam
21   Posted 16/02/2009 at 07:49:05

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Anthony Killen, best of luck with your lad. I don’t know who’s prouder - your son or his dad!

If in a few years time he does make it, tell him to ignore the 100,000 quid a week offer from manure and stick with us ;-)
Alasdair Mackay
22   Posted 16/02/2009 at 07:51:13

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Rodwell stood out again yesterday, for me. The lad oozes class, confidence and composure at 17 yrs old!

The more I see him play, the more I think we will not need Moutinho is the summer, especially now we have Arteta nailed on in the centre and Captain Neville playing there as well. We probably still need cover, especially if we finish in the top four, but we don’t need to spend £20million.

Baxter looks like one who should make it, but I would be interested to hear opinions on Kissock, who has been talked about for some time and seems to have been over-taken in terms of progress by others. Has anyone any idea what happened to Scott Spencer?
Don Flintoni
23   Posted 16/02/2009 at 10:59:29

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Good post but the comparison to Man Utd cannot be made. They raped and pillaged some of the best players for a generation from their repective clubs county-wide to build for the future these included Sharpe, Giggs, Scholes, Neville Bros, Savage etc.

With our kids most of them are local born and bred and we will be lucky if one player per generation reaches the heights that some of the aforementioned Man Utd players did.

Dave Torley
24   Posted 16/02/2009 at 11:02:14

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At least with Sheeds in charge you know they won’t be spending all day running up and down sand dunes and might be practising ball skills.
Adam Cunliffe
25   Posted 16/02/2009 at 13:27:30

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One of my best mates at school plays for Man City under 15?s and he said that out of all the academies he?s played at, Everton?s and Middlesbrough?s are by far the best he?s played at.

I don?t know if all the academies do this but Luke has two days of school to train in Manchester and he trains Saturday and plays Sunday. Tho every time we have exams he has to be in school.
Tim Wardrop
26   Posted 16/02/2009 at 14:03:54

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Just want to echo everyone’s comments really: this is a great piece and something that highlights one of the things we all should take a lot of pride in - our youngsters.

Talking about each of them specifically, I have the following observations:

Rodwell - for me he has all the attributes that are needed: good technique, excellent composure and a great physical presence. The thing I think he needs to work on is making sure that composure doesn’t become lethargy - too often you get the impression that he’d like more time on the ball than he actually has.

Gosling - I actually thought he was our worst player yesterday, but still: the thing I really like about him is he is willing to take a chance in the final third. He’s always looking to beat a man, make a killer pass, break into the box etc. My worry with Dan is that he could turn out like Osman, i.e. someone who has fantastic technique and loads of ability, but either lacks the tricks or the pace to convert that technique into being an international standard player.

Baxter - I really can’t wait for this lad to break through properly. I think we all know about the positives with Jose, so my concern with him is what is his best position? Is he strong or quick enough to play right up top? Does he have the game awareness to be a number 10? Does he have the work-rate and energy required to be a wide man? I’d hate to see him fail to make the grade because he can’t nail down a position. I’d be interested to know what regular watchers of the reserves think of him - is he going to make the grade as a winger or a striker?

Kissock - unfortunately I think JP is going to be our new Kevin McCleod: he just doesn’t quite have the pace, strength or skills to make it as a Premiership wide man and I can see him dropping down into League 1 / the Championship this summer.
Gary Green
27   Posted 16/02/2009 at 16:36:42

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I too thought that Rodwell was outstanding yesterday and fair play also to Vic who seemed to physically terrorise the Villa Defenders (and stay on his feet more than usual)

I watched JP Kissock on Saturday at Bournemouth playing for Accrington Stanley and to be honest even that standard looked to be beyond him. He was atrocious.

Alan Rodgers
28   Posted 16/02/2009 at 18:05:00

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Great article Lee. There is a good piece on Wilkipedia about Finch Farm and a list of academy players and staff etc. EFC apparently have a 50-year lease with an option to purchase after 5 years. Everything I?ve read about Finch Farm is highly complimentary and a credit to EFC.
Phil McNamara
29   Posted 16/02/2009 at 18:40:17

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A good piece but let's not too excited; Rodwell and Gosling have only played a handful of matches and could go off the rails ? remember Jeffers, Billy Kenny?

Hope we can keep them too, but yes, the future looks rosy.

Oh yeah, little sidenote: Jutkiewicz was bought by Everton from Swindon not brought through the Youth Team.
Dave Roberts
30   Posted 16/02/2009 at 19:17:51

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There is something I don?t quite get.

If Everton recognize a kid with talent then go out and get him, slot him in to the youth setup at whatever stage he is at and bring him on to first team standard, then why is that not counted as a success for the youth setup?

I know clubs get rewarded for work in the community and bringing on local kids but that doesn?t mean a lad like Gosling can?t be considered a success for the youth setup. You can?t count only those who were picked up at 8 or 9 years old as successes surely?

Isn?t this what Arsenal have been doing for years and very successfully on the whole?

Even Baines and Jagielka... ok, somebody made a judgement at some stage that they weren?t going to make it and they were released. But the fact they did make it must surely have at least something to do with what they learned while they were at Everton?

Let?s not confuse the ?Academy? with the youth setup as a whole. The former is important but we need to be just as much on our toes to pick up the likes of Gosling as well.
Ian Campbell
31   Posted 16/02/2009 at 22:36:56

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A rather average post I thought - Rodwell & Hibbert were the only products of our youth team on Sunday and the fact that we had to buy Jagielka and Baines back shows a failing in our system rather than the benefits. If we had kept hold of them in the first place then that would have been an £10million in the transfer kitty.
Ian Campbell
32   Posted 16/02/2009 at 22:50:48

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Sorry Anichebe also.

Really impressed by Rodwell so far and I think that Gosling could be good but not gonna get too carried away yet!
Pete Jones
33   Posted 17/02/2009 at 06:22:46

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Watching Gosling play really reminds me of a young David Platt ? decent technique, versatile and excellent positional awareness. He should bag a couple more goals this season.

Importantly, we wiped the floor with Villa without our two big money players ? Yak and the curly one. Splashing cash only really works when added to existing solid foundations.

Danny O'Neill
34   Posted 19/02/2009 at 04:28:19

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Lee - fantastic article and one close to my heart.

Michael Kenrick, I know you?re desperate to find faults in the Moyes regime but you?re request to Lee on training techniques expose your limited knowledge of football.

Once a club of Everton?s stature has identified a player of ability, they will not be concerned on "ball control, trapping & dribbling". Sorry mate, but thats kids stuff and something they will assume as natural ability.

After that, any club (and I speak as coach of a Conference South youth team) looks for technical ability and decision making capacity. Thats the difference between an average player and a good player. Maybe thats why you (& your cronies) don?t appreciate just how good Moyes is. Unfortunately, we all want to win by playing like Brazil, but it doesn?t always happen like that. All things good come to those who wait!

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