Do we really give youngsters a chance? Is our academy fulfilling its role? Can we afford to give youngsters a chance? These are questions which need scrutinising as both Moyes and Martinez have stated we are a club that gives youngsters a chance... but do we?

I suppose the easiest question is the one regarding whether the academy fulfils its role which I seem to remember was that it wanted to produce one youngster a season who breaks into our first team. I can only think of Barkley, Anichebe and Rodwell in the last 5-6 years who have really come into the team, stayed a while and gone on to International level. You cannot count Coleman, Stones in this as they were both bought, and didn’t actually come through our academy.

Numerous players' names have been mentioned over the last couple of years as real good prospects, but they haven’t really made it; a few substitute roles, a few 10-minute cameos or a fleeting appearance in the League Cup or Europa Cup. Most notable: Forshaw, Bidwell, McAleny, Duffy, Baxter, Hope, and Lundstram. Rodwell and Anichebe moved on but have at least brought us some monies — Anichebe £5M and Rodwell £12M.

Over the last 5-6 years, we haven’t had a player per year breaking into the first team, and hanging around for a few games. So I suppose you could argue that the academy is not fulfilling its role. We are all getting excited again when we hear that we have a few players coming through who are class – Garbutt, Browning, Ledson, Long, Walsh, Green and maybe Grant... but be careful: history shows that most fall by the wayside.

Do we give youngsters a chance is very much linked into can we afford to give youngsters a chance. I think I’m right in saying that our three successes mentioned above, took nearly 3-4 seasons from when they made their debuts to becoming a real part of the 1st team squad.

If you look at other Top 6 Premier League teams, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool haven’t really developed regularly any true Premier League class players. You can cite the odd player from each club academy over last 10 years or so: John Terry, Jack Wilshere, Steven Gerrard... even Sterling was bought by Liverpool as a 17-year-old from QPR. They all buy youngsters already developed elsewhere or just buy young players who have made it in some European League already.

Maybe Man Utd are slightly different in this respect because I do feel they positively look to feed players in; the likes of Rafael, Januzaj, Fletcher, Evans were all brought into the club at 16/17 and have got into their first-team squad. This season, their true academy lads – McNair, Blackwell, Blackett and Wilson – have all figured on numerous occasions, admittedly because of their injury crisis, but at least they have been given a chance.

On this basis, you might well argue we do give youngsters a slightly better chance than most top Premier League teams, but nevertheless we all shouldn’t expect Martinez to suddenly throw in the youngsters, particularly en masse, because it just won’t happen. The League Cup was the competition where I suspect Martinez wanted to try out the likes of Garbutt, Browning, Long etc but drawing away at Swansea threw all that aside... pity it wasn’t a few rounds against lower league opposition. Also, the tough Europa Group we were drawn in has meant Martinez has had to play his experienced players.

So, answering my opening questions, do we give youngsters a chance? Yes, we probably do compared to other top teams.

Can we afford to give them a chance? No, not really; maybe only in exceptional circumstances, particularly as we are trying to compete at the top end of the table and desperately want European experience.

Is the academy fulfilling its role? It’s not in regards to producing top quality Everton players on a regular basis, but if it can produce the odd player every few years who can bring significant income when sold, then again its role can be justified. Can Chelsea's, Man City's, Liverpool’s, or Arsenal’s academies be justified? Probably a definite No!/p>

Last point, even though I’ve just written this article and –using the facts above – we shouldn’t expect too much, but the optimistic Evertonian in me thinks/hopes that there is another Rooney, Barkley just around the corner... is there ?

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Trevor Lynes
1 Posted 24/11/2014 at 22:02:17
Fair article but today's game is international unlike the past years. When I played there were virtually no foreign players in the old first division or lower leagues. All teams were made up of home grown youngsters and every school boy played football.

I first played in the old Business houses league once I left school and there were seven divisions. Liverpool schoolboys provided most of the Liverpool and Everton English players.

I played for Widnes as I lived in Huyton and went to grammar school in Widnes.Alan A'Court played for Prescot grammar and he ended up at Liverpool. Steve Heighway played for Skelmersdale in the Zingari league.

Liverpool and Everton fielded seven teams a week from academy to first team. The best youngsters were good and made the first team. Liverpool won at least four European trophy's without foreign players which proved that home produced players could compete at the top level all over Europe.

Compare that with today, kids do not play football at decent levels and sit at home on gameboys and laptops. Foreign players have now taken over our leagues and there are not many places available for kids coming through locally.

Our national teams are no longer contenders for top trophies and the sides that win the league titles are the richest and mainly buy foreign ready made stars. British kids are now fast becoming watchers of the game and only a few take the sport up seriously. I have ten grand children, nine of which are boys. Once they became mid teens they stopped playing and started watching.

I look in the Echo and hardly any amateur football is being played compared to the past. The Echo used to have pages filled with football leagues and many top local footballers started there. I played against Temple, Smith, Lawler, Melia, Morrisey and co as a schoolboy and Liverpool had lots of schoolboy internationals who went on to win titles and trophies.

All that has changed and the big money has lured top foreign stars and stunted the development of British youngsters. IMO, that is why we do not see so many youngsters coming through.

Steavey Buckley
2 Posted 24/11/2014 at 22:27:42
Today's young players at Everton don't get the experiences of playing alongside and against more experienced and better players in reserve teams, that used to play in the Central League. So without gaining that type of football experiences by being elevated to an Everton reserve, young players are forced to be loaned out to other clubs, without the proper support of family and friends; and without the better training facilities at Finch Farm, which is up there with the best.
Bill Gall
3 Posted 24/11/2014 at 22:36:25
The problem with managers giving young players a chance in the Premier League is limited by (a) the competitive nature of the Premier League (regardless of some supporters' views, there is no such thing as an easy game), (b) the high payment rewards offered for high league positions and the European tournaments, and (c) the expectancy of the supporters in their league standing.

The game against West Ham was an indication of a manager's perspective: when provided with no cover for Baines, he chose Hibbert over Garbutt, simply for experience, looking at the type of team we were playing against.

As Mike says, we are not producing many players from the youth academy who are being given a chance and this raises the question: Why were the youth players included in the first team squad if they are not given game time to gain experience?

No supporter will be able to see if we have any top prospects if they sit on the bench. But on the same hand, the fans must not be critical of their performance if given a chance.

Andy Crooks
4 Posted 24/11/2014 at 23:34:19
Good responses to an interesting article. Trevor, when I was at school we fielded ten sides every Saturday, now there are none. There were a huge amount of school and amateur games. It coincided with an era when Irish league sides achieved some notable results in Europe. Those days are gone for good.

Sadly, it seems to me that Everton don't fit the profile of a team able to give young players a chance. We have, quite rightly, an aspirational fan base, We expect to be in competitive games all season. If an exceptional talent like Barkley Is not given a run in the side then it suggests to me that we have a conservative coach who is less forward thinking than I hoped. Having said that, the financial state of the club does encourage such an approach. A thumping at home with a couple of youngsters in the side would see me slaying Roberto as much as anyone.

Steavey Buckley
5 Posted 24/11/2014 at 23:52:47
Long before the academies came along, a young player had to prove himself as a reserve, playing regularly with members of the first team squad in the Central league. That's how Colin Harvey, Brian Labone, Joe Royle, Tom Wright, Gary Stevens, Kevin Ratcliffe, Kevin Richardson, Neville Southall (for awhile) and a host of others, eventually, established themselves in the first team; which is a much better situation than being in the Everton Under-21s and trying to break into the first team.
Colin Glassar
6 Posted 25/11/2014 at 00:11:35
Roberto will bring some of the kids through but he'll bring them on slowly while he'll use the likes of Ossie, Hibbo, Barry and Distin to teach them good habits.

I expect to see a lot more of the likes of Browning, Garbutt, Ledson and even Galloway in the New Year.

Patrick Murphy
7 Posted 25/11/2014 at 00:10:35
A club in Everton's position should be giving younger players a chance as it is makes sense economically but it is a very competitive area and there appears to be fewer players to choose from – a paucity of grass roots football in England cannot be helping the situation.

Another issue about blooding the youngsters is that as soon as they make the first-team they or at least their agents will want to see their promotion being met with an increase in salary. In these days of wage restraints being uppermost in the minds of the bean-counters, it might also prove prohibitive to youngsters making the grade which begs the question: Why are players such as Atsu – who, it has to be said, looks way out of his depth – being drafted into the squad? Are loan deals not included in the wage bill or are they accounted for differently? Other operating costs perhaps?

Steve Carse
8 Posted 25/11/2014 at 00:56:20
Trevor (1), one other reason of course why the number of weekend leagues and teams is so much lower than in the 60s and 70s is the hoovering up of youngsters from the age of 8 upwards by ourselves and Liverpool. All these kids are then prohibited by the clubs for playing football anywhere else. This has helped destroy the junior leagues and subsequently the senior leagues.
David Ellis
9 Posted 25/11/2014 at 02:37:31
Trevor #1,

The standard of football in the old First Division, and in European leagues generally, was much lower than it is in the Premier League nowadays. This is because the playing base is now bigger (globally) and that money has sucked in this greater talent base into the Premier League and a few other leading clubs in Europe (Bayern, Barca and Real Madrid in particular). There is no way a team of English players (or even British and Irish players – half that Liverpool team in the 70s were Irish/Scots/Welsh) could win the Champions League now – not because they are worse than they used to be, but because the standard is now higher.

The record of the English national side is no different now to what it was in the 1970s – we are in the top 20... sometimes the top 8 – it's about where we should be, given our population size and state of development. There is a problem graduating English kids into professional football in a level below the Premier League (which is too high a level) – hence the FAs idea of allowing B teams to compete in lower leagues. But I don't think this being taken up so they need to think again.

David Chait
10 Posted 25/11/2014 at 06:01:29
In a word: Limited.
Jay Harris
11 Posted 25/11/2014 at 05:54:35
The biggest problem facing younger players now is the absolute chasm between the Premier League and "reserve" team football.

The only way for players to get that experience and development is to progress through the Championship and just below. We had to do that with Seamus and he was bought in.

As previous posters have mentioned, there used to be a massive number of schools teams and amateur football was prevalent throughout the country but, with the standard in the Prem, now the top teams have to develop the top talent from a young age when it is so difficult to identify anything other than the one-in-a-million Rooney or Ronaldo, coach them through the academy and then farm them out to lower league clubs to aid their development which obviously doesn't suit a number of kids (being away from home and not getting regular football).

Adam Luszniak
12 Posted 25/11/2014 at 08:34:11
I think when Martinez first took the job at Everton he talked specifically about the youth set up in England compared to those in European nations;

"I like B teams. Can you imagine playing at Championship level with your group, in your environment, but having to win games, try to get promotion and avoid relegation? You know what it means to play against men.

"That's what you develop – mentally, psychologically and in every aspect of the game. But we haven't got that here."

Bill Griffiths
13 Posted 25/11/2014 at 09:55:49
Very good article, Mike, and like many others I expected some of the younger players to have been given a bit of game time.

However, Roberto has obviously come here with a long-term game plan and looking at things realistically you can't expect him to change things overnight. I'm sure that in the next few seasons we will have more youngsters coming through and getting more game time.

Phil Walling
14 Posted 25/11/2014 at 09:53:33
Thanks Mike for focussing on this issue and one I have made attempts to discuss in the recent past. Usually, the response is that the Academy costs peanuts and that – with the sale of Rooney, Rodwell and Anichebe and the emergence of Barkley – it has more than paid for itself this century.

I don't agree with that mindset altogether as I would expect at least one youngster to be encouraged to come through every season in preference to the opportunities given to 'iffy' kids from other clubs like Atsu,

Listening to Moyes and Martinez, you would think they were totally committed to youth but it just ain't so, and as I have said several times, in the present climate where every league place is golden, you can hardly blame them.

I guess the response to the question posed is that in this age of the 'global Premier League', local kids count for little or nothing. For appearances sake and to get the grants available, clubs have to go through the motions and the odd one will still 'sort of make it'. I just wish managers would not pretend to be the Champions of Youth, that's all.

Steve Carse
15 Posted 25/11/2014 at 11:23:32
Am I right in recalling that, under Keegan, Newcastle scrapped their academy because it was non-productive?
Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 25/11/2014 at 11:46:06
DonÂ’t Browning, Garbutt, Long etc learn every day, training and playing with and against International players at Finch Farm? I know itÂ’s not the same as playing in competitive matches but it should enable them to be ready to play at least part of some games. Recently there was two opportunities versus Aston Villa and Lille when a couple of youngsters could have been used when Everton were 3-0 ahead in both games.
Jamie Crowley
17 Posted 25/11/2014 at 13:41:55
Are there rules prohibiting Premier League sides from having a lower division team? For example an "Everton Juniors" competing in League Two or lower?

Owned by Everton but run under a separate umbrella?

In America we have "farm clubs" in the minor leagues that fulfill the need for younger athletes to get meaningful and plentiful game time. If they do well they can be "called up" to the big leagues (baseball...).

I've often wondered why that isn't the case in English football.

Mike Allison
18 Posted 25/11/2014 at 15:47:37
Jamie, there's no precedent for that happening, and there is a rule that no-one can own 10% of two different clubs.

The FA produced a report into the national team that said Premier League clubs should run 'B' teams in the lower leagues. This is done in major European leagues, most notably Spain, where Real Madrid, Barcelona and a few others run 'B' teams. The reaction to this FA proposal was swift, vehement and overwhelmingly negative.

It is seen as elitism whereby the bigger clubs are trying to marginalise smaller, local clubs who play an important role in their community. English sport has a very different history to American sport, and the clubs in the lower leagues often have over a hundred years of a proud, independent history. The Premier League has already made life harder for them, and they see the proposal as just another nail in the coffin for the smaller guys.

A couple of English clubs, notably Man Utd, have set up agreements with foreign teams. Many United youngsters have been sent to play a full season with Royal Antwerp in Belgium. I don't know if they still operate this policy or not. Perhaps, as they are the club who seems to integrate youngsters into their first team the most, there is evidence that this is a good idea.

On a separate note, I think the selection of Hibbert over Garbutt against West Ham on Saturday was a highly symbolic one, and says an awful lot about where Martinez is really at when it comes to the youngsters. Unless he suddenly decides Garbutt will play against Wolfsburg, it seems to me that actions speak louder than words, and an awful lot my optimism about Garbutt, Browning and others, is certainly beginning to fade.

Andrew Ellams
19 Posted 25/11/2014 at 16:15:18
I think English football is rightfully very proud of its pyramid system and it shouldnÂ’t be used as stepping stone for EnglandÂ’s brightest. As Mike says, clubs like Portsmouth and Preston have played a big part in the Football League being what it is and should be treated with the respect that they deserve.
Frank Crewe
20 Posted 25/11/2014 at 15:48:26
I would also point out that we fans are partly to blame. We want to see our youngsters get games but we also want to see players being brought in during the transfer windows. This in turn reduces the opportunities for youngsters even further.

There is simply no way for a younster to progress from youth team to first team. Youth team competitions, leagues, cups etc, are just kids playing kids.

Really, unless there is a massive injury crisis, youngsters have almost no chance of getting first-team action.

Academies are just a place for them to hang around until the loaning out starts... shortly followed by selling off to lower-division clubs, which pays for the academy and hence benefits the club.

Trevor Lynes
21 Posted 25/11/2014 at 16:07:32
David, I take issue with you when you say that Premier League football is more competitive and better than the old First Division. Check your stats, mate. Level playing fields enabled clubs from all over the country to have a reasonable chance of winning the title.

The last time an England football team won the World Cup was in 1966. The FIFA team that represented Great Britain beat the Rest of the World 4-2. All these successes were won with home grown talent. Managers had to build teams and not just buy the best in the world.You are demeaning players like Best, Charlton, Law, Young, Vernon, Collins etc etc etc. They developed into some of the best players I have ever seen in the UK. Puskas, Di Stefano, Cruyff, Pele and their ilk all came through during those years.I still say that youngsters in Britain do not play anywhere near as much as they did prior to the Premier League formation. Amateur football leagues were of a very high standard and virtually every top player came through via that route. The best Everton and Liverpool teams were playing during the period you are dismissing. Many media journalists tend to talk of football only beginning when the Premier League was formed and they are forever quoting stats based on that.

I was basically pointing out the reduction in kids playing the game seriously and the demise of the amateur and semi-pro football in the cities. Footballers are far better paid but that has not made the standard better. The game has progressed in pace and athleticism but not necessarily in natural ability and entertainment.

Tony J Williams
22 Posted 25/11/2014 at 16:27:58
"I would also point out that we fans are partly to blame."

Didn't realise that my season ticket wielded me with so much sway over the youth policy and who we brought in during transfer windows.

No matter how much we bitch and moan about new/youth players, it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference to what Bobby and Bill want to do in their minds and what they eventually will do.

Frank Crewe
23 Posted 25/11/2014 at 16:34:14
@Tony

It is simply a by-product of the pressure on managers to bring success and more importantly from their point of view avoid the sack. The very fact that RM has said he won't bring in a CB in January is a preemptive strike against the clamour to bring in a CB in January window. He has also said he will use the loan system as much as possible. So far we have seen Delafoe, Atsu, Henen, Traore, Lukaku, Barry.

Well constantly bringing in loaners isn't saying much for the academy lads.

Unless you are an absolutely exceptional player both skillwise and physically, and by this I mean strong beyond your years, such as Barkley, then your chances are virtually zero that you will make it into the first team.

As has already been pointed out by others when push comes to shove managers will always opt for experienced older players over inexperienced younger but potentially better players.

Peter Gorman
24 Posted 25/11/2014 at 17:43:26
@Mike Allison

Until the Football league implements those recommendations from the FA report, neither Everton nor England will produce a steady stream of world class talent.

I totally understand why so many lower league clubs rejected the proposals; we are a unique footballing nation with so many professional, regional clubs who have both history and a cherished identity. But the B team system works. Martinez is spot on, the youngsters need competitive environments to truly develop. Loans are ok but there is no guarantee the players will develop in line with the parent clubÂ’s ethos.

We always moan that there is no talent in the country whenever the current England racket inevitably pile in on the biggest stage. Yet we do produce talent (Ledson and Kenny helping to win the U17s Euros(?) against Holland etc.) which then stagnates at U21 level.

I sincerely hope a compromise can be reached and higher tier clubs can have unlimited loans to one particular Â’feederÂ’ club (based in the region rather than just Â’Everton BÂ’) and therefore gain the blooding they need to prepare for the Premier League and International competition. Sadly, I donÂ’t think there is the will to change so I am sure we can all enjoy developing foreign players for the next few decades.

Danny Broderick
25 Posted 25/11/2014 at 21:51:36
As someone else said, a youngster should be brought on when we are 3-0 up. This is the only way to judge how a kid can handle the big stage, and hopefully the result should take care of itself if we are 3-0 with 15/20 minutes to go.

I remember Joe Royle subbing Southall at half time and bringing on Paul Gerrard. We all know Gerrard didn't become a world beater, but we were winning 5-0 at half time, and it was an ideal time to blood him.

Harold Matthews
26 Posted 26/11/2014 at 01:39:04
This youngster business is beginning to get on my nerves.
Jimmy-Ã…ge Sørheim
27 Posted 26/11/2014 at 07:09:41
I have a burning passion for youngsters, and I think it is vital for a club like ours to give regular playing time to our best youngsters

I agree that our academy has failed in recent years.
We used to give playing time to Vaughan here and there, and it can, and should be done again with other youngsters.

Without the regular game time Barkley got last season, he would not have been where he is today.

My first point is this:

So far this season Martinez has had plenty of chances to play youngsters like Browning, Garbutt, Ledson and even Stanek.

The fear factor has taken over Martinez in my view.

Howard was playing like a League One goalie, and he should have been benched for either Robles or Stanek.

Lukaku was also out of form and injured, yet Long, Duffus or Hope got no playing time at all.

Martinez had the chance to play youngsters this season, but chose not to.

My second point is this:

The only other way to get regular playing time is to be loaned out to a club that has a NEED for that youngster.

So far that has not happened, so youngsters have been re-called and time has been wasted in my view.

The solution is to find a club in need of players.

Chelsea have been smart about it, we tried to loan Junior to a side in Norway that won the league last season.

If there are no clubs willing to give regular playing time in the championship, then aim one lower like League One, or establish a link with Stromsgodset Drammen FC and loan some of our youngsters out to them.

That is exactly what Manchester City did, and they have helped the careers of those youngsters.

Basicly Martinez has not gotten it right yet, but he needs to learn from his past mistakes!

I seem to remember Luke Garbutt being played in a League One club at first, and once he got playing time there, bigger clubs in the Championship got interested.

This is not rocket science, there is no need to make things more difficult then it needs to be.

Richard Dodd
28 Posted 26/11/2014 at 09:15:29
As one whose age means that my support for EFC covers only the Premier League era, I have little or no interest in what went on 'in the old days'. I respect the history of the Club – we haven't had much to cheer about in 'my time' certainly – but comparisons with what happened under Catterick and Bingham have little value.

Of course all clubs 'developed their own' as the Football League was purely a game for British players, many with local connections. Having said that, few of us would want to go back to a time where some clubs' obsession with young players meant their teams often resembled a kindergarten and, almost inevitably, led to relegation and worse. See the history of Burnley, Blackpool, Portsmouth et al for evidence.

No, we want, nay demand, the very best international players our club can afford; worrying about 'the next generation' of England players is the FA's responsibility. We want the cream of this generation – wherever they may come from!

Dave Abrahams
29 Posted 26/11/2014 at 13:10:14
Harold, as a senior citizen, you are supposed to be patient with youngsters!!!!
David Harrison
30 Posted 26/11/2014 at 13:46:33
Yes, Steve #8 and what happens to the majority of those 8-yearolds hoovered up by the pro clubs? They get rejected and don't bother filtering back to the amateur clubs. It isn't just football either. I haven't got the answer but we have to find the balance between sport for all and sporting excellence or we will create a nation of spectators, if we haven't already.
David Harrison
31 Posted 26/11/2014 at 13:53:11
Maybe we just pop kids' dreams too early. At 54 I've only just given up hope of playing for the Blues.
Ian Tunstead
32 Posted 26/11/2014 at 13:49:50
Garbutt and Green were bought so they cannot be counted. But the money we got for Rooney and Rodwell has paid for the academy and then some over the past decade.
Jamie Crowley
33 Posted 26/11/2014 at 14:44:33
Mike Alison, Than you for the explanation.

I think I personally would favor a B-team system as I do not see how that would kill your smaller clubs which obviously are engrained in the footballing culture.

If anything, I think it would be great – imagine the young kids who play for Rochdale playing Everton B and having a better chance of being noticed by a bigger club, never mind playing their guts out against the B teams as they try to make the point to someone watching that they are good enough to play in a B side.

Ticket sales would possibly increase against the B sides as well?

Initial thoughts off the top of my head.

Thank you, Mike.

Charlie Barrow
34 Posted 27/11/2014 at 13:47:36
Like most fans, I would prefer to see Everton win with some homegrown players from the academy (preferably from Merseyside) in the team. But you have to be realistic – only a very few really make it and that was as true in the '60s and '70s as it is today.

I played with a couple of lads in my school (early '70s) who I thought were world beaters – they both got released (by Liverpool and Everton) and had stop-start careers with teams like Crewe and Chester. The only kid I remember who made it was David Fairclough who I was 'marking' in one game (a loose interpretation of the term).

Micky Norman
35 Posted 30/11/2014 at 14:38:42
For a young footballer to jump from Academy games / U21 into a Premier League team must be like being blasted into space. They need to develop alongside proven professionals to learn the game.

It's no surprise that so few manage to break through. They need the loan system and need to prove they can play the game against top pros before any manager whose job depends on results will give them a chance.

On balance, I think Everton are getting it just about right. What would help though would be supporters who give the local lads a chance.


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