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The Ones That Got Away

By Christopher Masters :  07/09/2008 :  Comments (36) :
A thought occurred to me with recent press coverage of Jamie Carragher?s book ?. Over the past 20 years there have been a number of (as hard as it is to admit?) outstanding Liverpool players who were in fact born and bred as true blue Evertonians. One would assume that the ultimate dream for these guys as young aspiring footballers would be to play for the club they have supported ? Everton.

And yet the Everton scouts and Academy ? predominantly during the 1980s ? seems to have overlooked, ignored or missed out on approximately £50-80 million pounds worth of home grown talent in the shape of Carragher, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler ? all of whom subsequently signed for and prospered with the dark side ?

I therefore pose the question: How did this calamity happen? In the case of Michael Owen, for example, as a young boy playing in school and Sunday Leagues he set a remarkable goal-scoring record that was well documented in the Merseyside local press ? The Liverpool Echo and Daily Post ? so how did we miss out on this kid? Why when he was a dedicated Everton supporter was he overlooked and allowed to sign for Liverpool ? particularly as during the 1980s Everton had almost as much success as Liverpool and therefore as a football club had equal appeal for young apprentices?

It could perhaps be excused as an oversight if it happened once ? but 4 times ????!!! All of these players mentioned went on to prove their credentials as England internationals, so before Evertonians shoot me down in flames ? just put your prejudice aside for one moment and forget about their current history of playing in red. Now, close your eyes and imagine that these guys had never ever played for Liverpool and were all nurtured by the Everton Academy ? just imagine how the fortunes of our club might have been affected in a positive way if all of the aforementioned players had been signed by Everton ?

I appreciate that some of you might retort with ?On Yeah ? what if... blah, blah, blah? but my point is that, surely at the zenith of their success in the mid-1980s was the time that Everton could afford to invest in the future by pouring money into the kids at the academy, and by capturing outstanding young talent ? particularly when most was sat in the boys pen every other Saturday afternoon!

Surely our scouting team from that period must now be shaking their heads in disbelief at the ones that got away and were welcomed with open arms by the dark side? Thankfully we now seem have got our act together with the academy and the future seems a lot brighter? but it was a bitter lesson to learn having boyhood Evertonians scoring against us when it should perhaps have been the other way around?

Reader Comments

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Richard Murray
1   Posted 07/09/2008 at 14:49:35

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What about Steve McManaman?
And didn’t Ian Rush support the blues too?
David Marsden
2   Posted 07/09/2008 at 15:51:27

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Owen wasn’t allowed by his Dad as Mike Lyons was the coach at the time. Fowler was courted by Daglish personally!!

But on the other hand, the RS missed Sheedy, Watson, Reid and surely many others.

Such a pointless question asking why!!
Jim Potter
3   Posted 07/09/2008 at 15:54:17

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... Robbie Fowler.

Ian Rush said he was such a big blue he’d play for free. Gordon Lee said "You’ll never make it son". Nice one Gordon.
bluey hills
4   Posted 07/09/2008 at 15:50:24

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A nephew, a blue nose from a true blue family, signed for the RS because they had proper facilities for kids, not portacabins on Littlewoods Sports & Social club ground. Something called professionalism which even his dad couldnt argue against. And, at that time, a policy of giving young local lads their chance
lee rogers
5   Posted 07/09/2008 at 16:05:22

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Steve McManaman wanted either a better contract or more money everton never offered it so he went to the darkside .is this true somebody told me this years ago
Peter Parker
6   Posted 07/09/2008 at 16:11:28

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Why are we always talking about the past ??? We have a new academy, we have youngsters coming through and in the first team or on the bench... most premier teams including Liverpool are buying foreign full stop so in the future we should keep our young stars....but I think some people on here prefer to look to the past than plan for future ! I am certainly a fan looking to the future and like what Im seeing.
jerome feldman
7   Posted 07/09/2008 at 16:30:19

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Mcmanaman,Rush,Fowler Owen and Carragher did get away but am sure Gerrard was a Liverpool fan growing up.
Anthony Jaras
8   Posted 07/09/2008 at 17:36:43

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Jerome, Although Gerrard says he was a Liverpool fan, he was a Blues fanatic.

Look at this;

http://www.4thegame.com/features/feature/165716/.html
Trevor Lynes
9   Posted 07/09/2008 at 18:33:39

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Our academy now is being used and we are beginning to see one or two promising youngsters.... BUT, I have written on this site many times at how often in the past we have completely emptied out our kids at the end of each season and later bought one or two back after they were developed elsewhere ? Baines and Jags for instance in our present squad. NOW we are using the kids because its been by necessity ? we would not have given them a chance otherwise. It's not been a plan, it's been a need.... and our scouting system is the PITS.
Gaute Lie
10   Posted 07/09/2008 at 19:20:23

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It is easy to see the success of these guys now-when they all are big stars (or have-beens).

Everton FC is not a billion pound industry with hundreds of scouting staff availiable or certainly not hundreds of experts. So at the end of the day some talents is destined to slip away.

I agree with Spidy (Peter Parker), we should look forward. It looks as theres talent beeing produced in the academy nowadays. Please stop all the whining. I think the word SUPPORTERS actually means we should SUPPORT the team, not keep on complainig all day long. Don?t you guys have something positive to write about?
Mick Gallagher
11   Posted 07/09/2008 at 19:44:12

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Heard the same arguements for years... get over it and look to the future. I wonder how many red kids are in are academy now.
Jim Smith
12   Posted 07/09/2008 at 20:56:36

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Lets concentrate on the future: Baxter (Liverpool fan, the irony), Rodwell, Vaughan and Anichebe are all coming through now for us and all look very good prospects. When you look at the shite where there's not much coming through really, the future is looking quite good for Everton right now
Paul Duff
13   Posted 07/09/2008 at 21:29:51

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I have read, i’m ashamed to say it, Robbie Fowler’s autobiography. He said he was treated better by the RS’s youth coaches and they pushed the boat out to get him at the time. Everton invited him back but didn’t make him feel really wanted. He also mentioned that Steve McManaman was left devastted by Everton cause he was rejected by them. End of, the RS signed him and the rest is history. I just think at the time Everton’s academy and scouts were naff.
Daniel McLoughlin
14   Posted 07/09/2008 at 22:52:16

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I have also read Fowlers autobiography an it shows while we rejected McManaman who was desperate to play for us our main product of the time was Tony Grant. What a joke that is.
Steve Jones
15   Posted 07/09/2008 at 22:27:54

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I was talking to one of our head scouts about Fowler just the other week.
His name was Robbie Ryder at the time, and he signed for Liverpool as a schoolboy. Everton were in for him, but Colin Harvey only offered him a one year contract as a YTS - Liverpool offered him whatever he wanted, but he had been training with them anyway for a few years so we never really had a chance.
I think the difference now is that we have got the better players in our Academy since they have more chance of breaking through with us, and the parents know that. One advantage of not having any money!
As well as Jose there are some great kids coming through over the next 2- 5 years.
Tony Kelly
16   Posted 08/09/2008 at 10:15:03

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I know of a young Evertonian at the Liverpool academy. His dad and all his dad?s family are big blues fans. When he signed for the dark side I asked his dad, who is a personal friend of mine, "Why did you let him sign for the red shite?

He said, "Tony, Everton offered him buttons. Liverpool gave him a fantastic contract. I HAD NO CHOICE."

Therein lies the problem: MONEY.

Ron Hill
17   Posted 08/09/2008 at 10:24:40

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Sorry to hark to times past but I recall a story about a Sunday League ref who was also a scout for Man City. Anyway he’s reffing in Toxteth and there’s some kid putting all sorts of balls away. He asked him after the game if he minded him letting City know about him and hadn’t Everton or Liverpool been to see him. The lad just laughed saying you wouldn’t get them coming down here. Hopefully with the likes of Anichibe coming through this is in the past but you’d have to wonder how much local talent the two clubs have missed out on.
John Pickles
18   Posted 08/09/2008 at 10:58:13

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Doubt it’ll happen in the future anyway, he’ll have the cream of the Kirkby crop all to ourselves!
Carl Rutherford
19   Posted 08/09/2008 at 11:21:04

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Its swings and round abouts yes Fowler, Rush, Owen, McManaman slipped through the net but we got Stuart Barlow in return!!
Mick Birkett
20   Posted 08/09/2008 at 11:34:47

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What does disturb me is the hatred these so-called Blues show for our club, what the hell happens to them? Carragher was an out-and-out Blue but is it possible for anyone to hate us more than he does? And Owen made no doubt of his joy when he scored against us at Goodison... And as for Fowler, dear god, and some people wanted to buy him last year!
Andy Ellams
21   Posted 08/09/2008 at 12:15:04

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I’m sure hundreds of kids all over the world have grown supporting one club in a city and ended up playing for another. There is that age old rumour that Nicky Butt has a City tattoo on his backside. It will go on forever.
Paul McMonnies
22   Posted 08/09/2008 at 12:27:54

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Jim Potter said : "Ian Rush said he was such a big blue he?d play for free. Gordon Lee said "You?ll never make it son". Nice one Gordon. "

Well that’s not QUITE the case....

There was an interview with Rush on the radio last week and of course he was asked why he didn’t go to Everton as he was such a big fan at the time. He said that the one week that Gordon Lee went to watch him (at Chester), he was played in midfield and had an absolute stinker, so there was no further interest.

Typical Everton timing/luck eh ?
Michael Brien
23   Posted 08/09/2008 at 12:29:07

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An interesting article - I think some people have been a bit too critical of Christopher Masters.

Yes we should all look to the future - but it is also important to REMEMBER the lessons of the past. I think the point Christopher was making was just that. Our academy is currently looking good and there are some good prospects. We need to ensure that some of the mistakes of the past aren?t repeated. We may not be able to match the "Sky 4" or has it just become "Sky 5 in finacial terms. But we can build up and establish a good scouting network and a good youth academy.

Ajax are a good role model in this, yes they are one of the big teams in Holland, but they are not in the same league in terms of finances as the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona and the aforementioned "Sky 4 or 5". But they have won more European titles than Man Utd for example - mainly due to having a brilliant youth set up. We should aim to do the same.

Dave Sheedy
24   Posted 08/09/2008 at 13:27:12

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I think the reason we lost Owen and Fowler and more recently let Baines go and rumour has it Osman wasn’t fancied is size.
In their wisdom our estemed acedemy believe you have to be a giant to proceed. I guess Jose bucks the trend for now!!!
Paul Gleeson
25   Posted 08/09/2008 at 20:19:58

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From what I’ve read in some Liverpool players autobiographies, namely Fowler, it seems Everton didn’t persue any of these youngsters with the same intensity as Liverpool, nor show enough interest or faith in them.
However i think we must have learned from the past as how many Liverpool youth players have progressed to their first team in recent years and been considered good enough to play game after game, when compared to our team which at the moment has at least 5 considered good enough to play. Seems to tides have changed.
Eric Turner
26   Posted 08/09/2008 at 23:03:47

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Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it...
Gaute Lie
27   Posted 09/09/2008 at 00:25:18

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I don?t think anyone writing on this page are ignoring the past, and I do hope we all learn from history.

However, I do know one thing. People are destined to make mistakes, history is full of people making mistakes. why don?t we learn from them? Because NO ONE IS PERFECT.

I do like reading old stories, old gossip. Just don?t like all the whining.
But then, it?s also very much human to complain and bitch around.
I rest my case.

Christopher Masters
28   Posted 09/09/2008 at 11:09:37

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My thanks to those who have contributed to this discussion point and stated their views... To those who mistook this article for more "Whining" then I?m afraid you have somewhat missed the point...

The future as far as our youth and Academy set-up is concerned looks extremely promising... indeed it could be said that Everton are currently bucking the trend compared to other premier league clubs perhaps with the exception of Arsenal and Manchester City concerning home grown youth investment rather than the just purchasing overseas youngsters as is the preference for some such as our neighbours...

However I do think that this has been partly done out of necessity due to lack of funds ? so we opted for the traditional option of nuturing young talent sourced locally and from other areas of the UK...

I acknowledge that mistakes have been made in our illustrious past and that thankfully we now seem to be learning from them ... for those who criticised arguing that there was little point in harping back, my point was and is, that it is only because of the mistakes made in our past, our acknowledgement of them and the lessons subsequently learned that we are now starting to nurture a steady flow of youngsters who may have the potential to succeed in the first team... and for a cash strapped club such as Everton this is the best way of adding numbers and talent to our squad in the short term...
Colin Grierson
29   Posted 09/09/2008 at 14:56:47

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"Liverpool players who were in fact born and bred as true blue Evertonians"


Anyone who claims to be true blue and then pulls a liverpool top on and claps the fuckin kopites when they sing his name is clearly a liar. I do get the point of your article but the real blues we have missed obviously went to play for someone other than the shite! Good riddance to all of those players mentioned. The only thing worse than a kopite is a kopite who said he was once a blue! We hate McMahon!!!!!!!!
I love a bit of vitriol!
Paul Gleeson
30   Posted 10/09/2008 at 00:43:37

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Just another quick comment on the comment written by Micheal with regards to the Ajax youth setup. While they have won tournaments in the past relying mainly on youth players, i don’t believe it will happen again for some time. The game has changed to much in recent years. So to follow the direction of Ajax would be the wrong i believe, and we should maybe look to Barcelona for advice (Bojan, Messi, Dos Santos, Valdes, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi, Motta). I base my opinion on Ajax from Johan Cruyffs own admission that the Ajax youth set up is no longer the educational epicenter for young footballers, and it will not produce many world class footballers if it remains as it is.
Steve Collins
31   Posted 10/09/2008 at 10:00:44

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I truely believe the pressures of the Premier League hinder clubs using more young talent. Academies churn them out at an amazing rate but the managers tend to let them go. England has the worst academy to first team stats in the world. Most of the other leagues produce and have faith in more academy talent.

Spain are at the forefront of this. Mainly due to their rule of a 25 man squad with another 5 academy players in case of injuries. Also they have a no non-EU player stipulation to protect their academies. Italy on the other hand believe mainly on home grown talent with the exception of a couple of teams. If you look at the Italian national team most of them if not all of them play in italy.

I guess my point is there is no point talking about the "ones that got away" or how poor our academies are, as it's to do with the managers and coaching staff trusting these youngsters.

The amount of money in the Premier League is far more than any other league so the pressure is greater
Nick Entwistle
32   Posted 10/09/2008 at 12:29:12

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But didn’t Everton also miss out on more local Everton supporters they then later had to sign? Baines for one, and I know some discussions last season had a few more down as well...
Steve Collins
33   Posted 10/09/2008 at 13:27:20

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Baines was a redshite supporter. I cannot find the link but a few years back he said he was a red.

Then he changed his mind when Everton were sniffing around him.
Nick Entwistle
34   Posted 10/09/2008 at 17:19:09

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Oh yeah, yeah he is isn’t he... well he’s chosen the rightous path now at least.
Nick Entwistle
35   Posted 10/09/2008 at 17:20:21

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Ahh, hang on, what I meant to post also was that there’s a number of youth players they had on their books and then later had to re-sign. Baines being one, Jagielka also?
John Vanderwerff
36   Posted 10/09/2008 at 21:17:20

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I think I read somewhere that when Gordon Lee was looking at Rush he was also looking at another centre forward - one Graeme Sharp. You pays your money you takes your chance.


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