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The Importance of Youth Development at Everton

By Will Simpson :  20/01/2011 :  Comments (35) :
I have always been skeptical when I read in an article that a club are trying to sign ?the next Messi? or that ?a future great? is coming through the youth system. It is for me what is wrong with the press and certainly a contributing factor to the current state of the English national team. Players are put on these pedestals and expected to reach the expectations of millions who have never before seen them play.

It leads to attitude problems as players begin to believe their own press and before making a career in the game they see themselves as superstars, a belief of course fuelled by the absurd wages these young men get paid.

As an Evertonian I find it disappointing that some fans so quickly discard our young players as ?not making it? at the age of twenty or younger. Not everyone is a Wayne Rooney or Jack Rodwell and able to play at that level at the age. A successful youth system is essential to a club like Everton, with a chairman not blessed with a sovereign wealth fund at his disposal and a stadium not equipped with all the mod-cons and executive facilities of their Premier League rivals, money will always be an issue for the club.

I?ve heard critics of the way David Moyes handles his youngster players. He doesn?t get them playing enough or to their potential, are some of the arguments that have been presented in the past. This is a voice of a critic that only wants to see Wayne Rooney?s and Jack Rodwell?s coming through the system, when the truth is that a successful Everton youth system is about producing so much more than that.

I believe Everton?s recent success can in no small part be put down to the spirit of the current squad. It is littered with players who have been blooded through the youth system, Tony Hibbert, Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman, Leon Osman, and Victor Anichebe. All of these players have grown up at the club and contribute an enormous amount not only on the field but off it

I can imagine a lot of you reading and seeing names like Tony Hibbert or perhaps Leon Osman and think nothing of their involvement in the squad. The truth is far from this. They understand the club and have been there through tough times, and if they were to move on I don?t see them caring for a club badge as much as Everton?s! Neither of them are world beaters and probably when everyone in the current squad is fit, not first team players either, however great servants to the club, and they provide great depth to a talented, hard working team.

Everton are blessed and very fortunate to have such players, because if they did not, the depth in numbers would have to come from somewhere else. Another source, a signing, and another blotch of red ink on the already stained balance sheet of this club we all love.

I have read fans criticizing David Moyes for his handling of players such as Baxter and Gueye. Neither have been seen in Everton shirts this season and fans are asking why? Well answer me this, where was Seamus Coleman at the age of eighteen (the age of José Baxter)? The answer is Sligo Rovers!

Players develop at different ages. José Baxter?s Everton career was born in the shadows of Wayne Rooney and too quickly was he lauded as ?the next Rooney?. Rooney casts a long shadow and it?s unfair to judge a players development against one of the best players England have produced in generations! Baxter is four years the junior of Seamus Coleman, a player lauded this season for his fine displays, and rightfully so. However this is the first season he has featured for Everton, at the age of twenty two.

José Baxter (18), Magaye Gueye (20), Shokdran Mustafi (18), Joao Silva (20), James Wallace (19), Luke Garbutt(17), Ross Barkley (17) are all players that most Everton fans have heard of and naively expect to be playing this season, or next season, when the truth is we don?t know when they?ll be ready. All lauded as the ?next? someone I am sure, but I just want to see these players have careers at Everton. In the future they can provide us with (at the very least) a team spirit equal to that of today?s squad and a depth of playing staff not usually afforded to a club like Everton with their limited means. Perhaps there is a Rooney amongst them but for sure let?s just not give up on these players because they?ve not come of the bench at the age of sixteen and scored the winner against Arsenal.

Seamus Coleman is a fine example of how to manage a young player. Given experience on loan last season and asked to play in a less disciplined right wing role as opposed to perhaps his natural full back position Coleman has been given the chance to shine, and his brave, direct running style has been a welcome new aspect to Everton?s play this season.

David Moyes has managed him to perfection, and the critics of his youth policy need to take a proper look at his methods and begin to understand not every player is a Wayne Rooney, but that does not make them a bad player!

A youth system should not work in extremes; it should not be a Rooney or nothing, and the Everton Academy is proving the value of such a theory.

Reader Comments

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Mike Prendergast
1   Posted 20/01/2011 at 21:46:26

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Well said.
Rob Jones
2   Posted 20/01/2011 at 21:46:43

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Whilst I agree that we (football supporters everywhere) probably expect too much too soon, Seamus is an exception in many ways. He is not a product of our youth system, he came relatively late into English professional football and as such making up for lost time. His career resembles that of Beckford more than any of the other players who have been pampered and coached in equal measure from their early/mid teens.
James Lauwervine
3   Posted 20/01/2011 at 22:09:47

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Good article Will. I for one am immensely proud of our youth policy when I look at the players that have come through our system. You are right to temper our expectations too, I'm guilty myself of thinking "What's happened to Baxter?" when the boy's only bloody 18.

I may well get slated for this but I think Moyesy's handling of youth/new players has on the whole been very good. One example that springs to mind is Bainesy. I remember the frustration as he sat game after game out whilst Moyes persisted with Lescott at left-back. Myself and many many others shouted for him to be given a run in the team, but stubborn old Moyes left him sitting on the sidelines for months on end. I remember one comment on TW that said "Moyes is singelhandedly ruining Baines's career" (or words to that effect). I believe this period gave Baines an insane desire and hunger to make that position his own that he has not lost since. He arrived at the age of 22 for big money (at the time) and probably expected to walk into the team. Moyesy, I believe, taught him a lesson and has made him a better player and certainly one of the best in the country in that position.
Wayne Smyth
4   Posted 20/01/2011 at 22:34:11

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To be fair James, we dont have another left back in the squad for baines to lose his position to. :-)

I'm one of the ones who think DM is far too conservative in terms of playing youth. He'll happily play a senior player out of position or when injured rather than give a youngster a chance....and youth players at least have desire, energy and a point to prove.

My biggest problem with Moyes is when he insists on playing players outside of their natural positions. He's done this with Rodwell, playing the poor guy at right wing, as well as doing so for many other senior players like bily, jags, heitinga etc. Can't do their confidence any good, especially when fans get on their backs because their performance understandably suffers.

Dale Hathaway
5   Posted 20/01/2011 at 23:06:17

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Did Coleman come through our youth academy or Sligo's? Your comments are a tad contradictory.

Anyway apart from that blip, any mention of James Vaughan who has been loaned out more times than Coleman was, proper management of a guy who scored 5 goals in 12 matches on loan while our 'top men' couldn't score in a brothel. Jutkewiecz, Ruddy, Gosling were all players of promise we signed but where are they now? Just look at the reserves, we are bustling with young talent but will they see competitive action at Goodison? Probably not. Osman was one of the most prolific scoring midfielders in reserve football playing in the centre behind the strikers, now where is he? And we have a problem with goals, I wonder why? Answer... David Moyes.
Roman Sidey
6   Posted 20/01/2011 at 23:05:50

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While you are spot on with claiming our acadamy is good and crucial, praising Moyes for his managing of youth is a different outlook to the one I have.
You say that not everyone can come on at 16 and score a winner against Arsenal. No they can't and not every youth player will. The thing is, no one - young or old - can score anything against anyone if they're not on the pitch.
Peole have stick with Moyes over Gueye because when Moyes signed him, he said he was his "secret weapon". Key word there is "secret", because no one has seen him for more than a split second at Scunthorpe or Hudderfield.
I look back to the Fulham game at Craven a few seconds ago. We were down a goal, and instead of bringing on a young attacker or Rodwell, Moyes put on Hibbo or someone else at centre half and moved Lescott to centre forward. I remember the commentators saying how that is the sort of thing that gets in the head of the youngsters and creates confidence problems.
We've all seen what Moyes' managerment can do for the confidence of senior players, so imagine what it's doing for the juniors.
Yes Hibbo and Osman have come through the ranks. The problem with that though, is that they're championshop players at best - Hibbo probably shouldn't have had his contract renewed after 2006.
Moyes has been lucky that he's had a few golden boys come through from the acadamy. Seamus Coleman is not one of them. He was signed in 2009 from Sligo, at the age of 20 going on 21. He was playing first team before the turn of the year, then went on loan for 6 months before coming straight back into the first team. How anyone can say that he is a product of our acadamy is beyond me.
Roman Sidey
7   Posted 20/01/2011 at 23:26:51

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that's supposed to say "seasons" not "seconds" ago with regards to the Fulham game.
Dale Hathaway
8   Posted 20/01/2011 at 23:34:33

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apologies Vaughan scored 5 in 14 appearances at Palace...
Roman Sidey
9   Posted 20/01/2011 at 23:38:39

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and he only scored in three games. A hat-trick on debut, then fuck all.
Ryan Rosenberg
10   Posted 21/01/2011 at 02:24:16

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What about Shane Duffy? He would definitely be apart of the next generation of Everton players.
John Barnes
11   Posted 21/01/2011 at 03:59:17

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I definitely dont agree that Moyes handles youth well. Altho I can understand conservatism this season with so many games either tight or lost, on too many occasions in the past when enjoying a healthy lead he brought on senior players for the last 20, 15, 10 or even in added time. Surely that's the right time to let the youngsters get a smell and feel of what its all about without heaping expectation on them or risking the result?
I dont think that is expecting too much too soon but it does demonstrate to all that the youngsters are part of things. Look at the bench in every game and you know who will be brought on.
The situation with Vaughan should tell Moyes a lot. He is being moved on because lack of playing time has blunted his development. Its because of injury in his case but few of the other youngsters get the opportunity to play, even as a sub.
Michael Brien
12   Posted 21/01/2011 at 07:28:20

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I agree with some of your comments Will. I like you think that we underestimate the ability of some of the players that have "come through the ranks " so to speak. Leon Osman is a case in point - a player who never really seems to be appreciated by some Evertonians. Players like Osman, Anichebe and Vaughan seem to me to get very little appreciation from Evertonians. The way Vaughan gets stick for the injuries he has had you would think he gets injured deliberately!! He has come through some quite serious injuries - at one time I think he had to go to the USA for career saving treatment. The lad deserves some credit for battling through.

As regards Moyes I am afriad I don't think he is as good at bringing through young players as you suggest. Gueye is a case in point - he could have been given more " game time". He has hardly been given a chance to show what he can do.

Personally I wish the Reserve League was stronger and better organised. I think our second string play about 20 games in their League. Compare that to the the second string teams in Spain and Holland. They seem to have a stronger/more organised programme for their " reserve teams" - little wonder that they bring through so much talent.
Dave Wilson
13   Posted 21/01/2011 at 07:17:41

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Exellent piece Will
Dale Hathaway
14   Posted 21/01/2011 at 08:06:38

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Roman, Vaughan is our top scoring striker this season!
Andrew Fair
15   Posted 21/01/2011 at 10:02:29

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There is not better manager in English Football at bringing youth through than David Moyes. maybe it has been pushed upon him due to lack of finance but he goes out and gets the young players from other countries e.g Mustafi, Gueye and Silva.

- Michael as regards Gueye he came from a poor french team in terms of quality and will take time to build his way into this team, no manager unless desperate would through him in, we may see him get more game time now pienaar has gone and he has had 7 to 8 months to settle down.
- Dale - Jutkewiecz, Ruddy, Gosling! were are they now? Exactly that's the point Moyes and Everton are great at getting rid of the deadwood- granted Gosling did this himself but no young player who has been released by Moyes has gone on to be a success and that proves he knows what he is doing. Also on the point of Vaughan being our top scoring striker- he was scoring in the championship - very different level.
David Chait
16   Posted 21/01/2011 at 10:42:12

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I agree that we expect too much too soon from the youngsters... looking at the reserves results this year that is clear....

but on the other hand Moyes does seem to take an eternity to give em a go unless they are the biggest thing like Rooney or Rodwell... I believe this does stint their growth.

I would prefer our youngsters at 18 being loaned out and playing every week than sitting on the bench as they do.

Moyes is not the best at bringing kids through? Based on what - Rooney? Osman?
Brian Waring
17   Posted 21/01/2011 at 10:44:06

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Andrew, Wenger and Ferguson are 2 managers who are far better at bringing youth through than Moyes.
You only have to look at Wilshire, he was on par with Rodwell, but at the moment he is a far better player than Rodwell, because Wenger, no matter at what age they are, plays the young lads.

James, to say Baines is better now because Moyes kept him on the bench is a joke. You have to remember, Baines was first choice left - back at Wigan, with plenty of experience. The reason Moyes didn't play him, was because he was being his usual stubborn self. Also, didn't it take an injury for him to get his chance? So therefore, Moyes had no choice but play him.
David Thomas
18   Posted 21/01/2011 at 12:21:43

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"The reason Moyes didn't play him, was because he was being his usual stubborn self"

Was it not because Lescott was playing left back at the time and was performing very very well?
Michael Brien
19   Posted 21/01/2011 at 12:21:30

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Andrew - Gueye has been on the subs bench several times this season. What is the point in having a player on the bench if you are not prepared to bring him on at some stage if required. There are 7 substitutes named and in my opinion a good manager would be prepared to bring on any of the 7 - if not then what is he doing naming a sub that he is not prepared to play ?

When it comes to bringing through talented young players, I don't think Moyes is in the same league as either Wenger or Ferguson. To say that he (Moyes) is the best manager in the country as regards briging youth through - sorry I think you will find there are many who disagree with that opinion.
Denis Richardson
20   Posted 21/01/2011 at 12:43:45

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Erm - Please re-read your articles in future to get the basic facts right.

Coleman has nothing to do with the Everton youth system!

Silva and Gueye are not products of our youth system - we have nicked them from other teams and they are not exactly that young, Gueye is 20 not 17!

Also whilst I agree with some points, the fact we can only mention a handful of names in the current squad, that have come through, would point more towards our youth system FAILING, rather than succeeding.

We have known for years that we are skint and so youth development should have been made a top priority a long long time ago. Given the low numbers, either it has not been a priority or has failed to date.

Hibbert, Osman, Anichebe etc - all nice to have in the squad but none of these should be in the first team. Rodwell is the only player in the club who has come through the youth system who can rightfully (IMO) claim a place in the first team - not exactly a stunning success!

'Seamus Coleman is a fine example of how to manage a young player' - IMO what utter b*llocks.

The manager was FORCED to try him in the right wing role as he had no other options - given the club has somehow managed to ignore the fact that we need a right winger/midfielder for the last few years. He was brought in as a right back and has (thankfully!) managed to do a great job on the wing.

Apologies if my comments sound a bit harsh.

Ryan Holroyd
21   Posted 21/01/2011 at 13:10:17

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Brian Waring

That's rubbish. Lescott was our left back at the time. He scored around 10 goals from that position and we had the 4th or 5th best defensive record in the PL.
Baines couldn't get in because of that.

I happen to believe the Neville, Yobo, Jags and Lescott defense had everything and was far far superior to our defense now.

I'm not dissing Baines btw as he has been, imo, the best left back in the country this season.
Brian Waring
22   Posted 21/01/2011 at 13:23:19

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Ryan, David, Lescott may have been doing okay at left - back, but was actually better when he was played at centre - back. Baines could have easily come in at left - back to the job, and
Lescott could have moved back into his more natural position.

When Baines did get his chance he showed us what he could do, and done it far better than Lescott, instead we had to wait yonks.

If you have a natural left - back, why play a centre - half there? Its not as if this is something new with Moyes is it, playing players out of position?

Whether Lescott was playing well etc, thats not the point I was trying to make. Jame said he felt Moyes kept Baines sitting on the bench for mths on end, because he was teaching him a lesson, that he wasn't going to walk straight into the first team, and the plan was to make him more hungry for when he did play, I just don't see that.
David Thomas
23   Posted 21/01/2011 at 13:43:58

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I understand the point you are making. However, you stated it was because Moyes was being stubborn that Baines was not playing. The simple fact is that he was not playing because Lescott was excellent at left back and everton had one of the best defensive records in the league so there was no reason to change the defensive line up at the time.
John Barnes
24   Posted 21/01/2011 at 13:42:47

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Andrew ; those players are 'dead wood' because they havent been given the chance to develop, not been given the chance to play at the highest level. They may well not have had the necessary talent. We'll never know.
Some including Baines and Jagielka develop having been given that chance elsewhere ( and cost a few bob to bring back in) I just feel that a club in Everton's situation must explore EVERY opportunity to develop from within, either from the academy or from cut price captures from elsewhere such as we have on the books now. But it seems they get the chance only as a last resort. But looking at our situation now Moyes' hand may be forced as the squad shrinks and the established pros grow older. And it often works when Moyes hand is forced , so heres hoping!
Tony J Williams
25   Posted 21/01/2011 at 13:49:41

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Moyes kept Baines on the bench because Lescott was having a stormer at left back. He was scoring goals and was called up to England because he was playing so well.

Nothing to do with being stubborn but the fact we were not conceeding many and were scoring from the defence.

Why would he change a winning side?
James Stewart
26   Posted 21/01/2011 at 16:01:15

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What a load of rubbish. Sounds like something straight out of the Pr are spin machine.

Moyes only played Coleman when he had no other choice! Coleman has been ready all season yet only played half of it.
Dave Wilson
27   Posted 21/01/2011 at 16:33:52

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He`s started 18 games James, including Huddersfield and Villa in the first couple of weeks
Tony J Williams
28   Posted 21/01/2011 at 17:17:13

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Bloody facts.......
Richard Dodd
29   Posted 21/01/2011 at 17:37:45

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David Moyes should bow to no man(ager) on his record of development of young players and I commend the writer for recognising that fact.Our present squad is the ideal blend of youth and experience and the potential of some of our young players is a tribute to all at the Club involved in their development.Why some supporters ignore no opportunity to carp at the tremendous record of our manager in every aspect of his job,amazes me.
John Daley
30   Posted 21/01/2011 at 18:09:09

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".Why some supporters ignore no opportunity to carp at the tremendous record of our manager in every aspect of his job,amazes me."

Well someone has to counteract the unrequited man love you feel for the manager. For some strange reason I have this mental image of you as the stalker from Alan Patridge, standing there shirtless with David Moyes full face tattooed onto your stomach. After declaring your undying love on Toffeeweb you retire to a room plastered from floor to ceiling with blown up pictures of the 'Moyesiah', one hand lovingly stroking his image, the other furiously stroking your cock.
Drew O'Neall
31   Posted 21/01/2011 at 18:52:10

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Good article.

As I posted on here several weeks ago, I would, in Everton's situation, apply a wage cap to 80% of the squad making the only viable option to play youth development and players sourced from the lower leagues.

Even with a team of prospects and grafters on sub 10k a week, the funds it would free to pay two or three truly exceptional players would be worth the sacrifice and surely change our fortunes.

For the sake of argument let's assume Everton's wage budget is £500k per week for example (= 25 players x £20k per week average).

If you took out all the Bilyaletdinovs and Anichebes on £25-35k who aren't game changers and, in some cases, just sit on the bench most of the time, and replaced them with £10k a week (Blackpool players) x 5, and fifteen more promising youngsters on average on about a grand each (assuming older boys get more and younger ones get less), you would be able to sustain 5 players who were genuine game changers on £90k per week.

I'm a Moyes fan but as long as you give £25k contracts to Anichebe and co, you are never going to go anywhere with our resources.

My model would be to bring in talented youth from the academy or lower leagues on avg £1k per week to fight for the £10k squad player contracts.

You sell the £10k a week players every time they want more money/come to near the end of their contracts and by dint of them being populated out of the youth system eventually (as the model matures), they will be on average in their early 20's and will have higher price tags than their older squad player equivilents when it's time to sell.

Answer me this; would we be a better team with a spine of Cech, Ferdinand, Fabregas, Van Persie and Bent (use your own favourite £90k/week players), 5x Blackpool players and a kid than what we've got now?

The manager has to work hard constantly scouring for talent and potential and has to be ruthless in letting Anichebes go.
Drew O'Neall
32   Posted 21/01/2011 at 19:39:33

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I re-read that and wasn't that excited about my team.

Let me go with:

Cech, Jagielka and Distin (£90k between em), Fabregas, Arteta and RVP.

That's not bad.. (Bent? Honestly what drugs am i on?!)
David Thomas
33   Posted 21/01/2011 at 20:25:08

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Have you been drinking?
James Stewart
34   Posted 22/01/2011 at 00:16:15

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Dave Wilson's and Richard Dodds's approval I think that tells you all you need to know about this article I will be contributing no further.
Dave Wilson
35   Posted 22/01/2011 at 12:58:42

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I didnt create the facts James, I merely pointed them out to you

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