Unsworth anticipates 'shake-up' of U23s team

Wednesday, 18 April, 2018 38comments  |  Jump to most recent

David Unsworth has been laying out the immediate future for his Under-23s squad, one which he says is in the middle of another cycle following last season's Premier League 2 title triumph.

Everton's developmental squad has endured a more difficult campaign than last season, not least because of the inevitable change in personnel that has seen the likes of Tom Davies, Jonjoe Kenny and Beni Baningame graduate to the senior side while other first-team hopefuls like Kieran Dowell have been sent out on loan to gain more experience.

By design, the U23s setup can be a victim of its own success but Unsworth will embark on what he describes as a ”shake up” this summer to continue the transition to the next successful group.

That will include some players moving on to different clubs and targeted acquisitions being made from outside the club, while players from the Under-18s will also continue to be blooded at Premier League 2 level.

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“The group needs a little shake-up,” Unsworth says in the Liverpool Echo. “There are lads who are a little bit older who need to move on, that's fair and they know who they are.

“There are new lads who have come to the club who have come from clubs who are not used to the pace and tempo and speed at which we play and the demands of a Premier League player we drum into them everyday so that takes a little bit of time — it did with the last group.

“It took a couple of years for the likes of Tom, Jonjoe, Kieran to come up to the level that I know will get them in and around the first-team.

“This group is in that early stage and the young players that have come up maybe should not have been around it but they are and have been given the opportunity and we never moan about that because the job is about producing players for the first-team. But, as I said to the players, there's no reason why we can't win at the same time.

“I don't just want one or two coming through. When you have a group like last year's, I want that to happen every couple of years but we know where we are at and hopefully, with the addition of two or three more in the summer, this has got the nucleus of a very good squad.

“We've highlighted the positions we want to strengthen and know the players we want and hopefully the board can approve that and we can bring these top quality players into our club.”

Everton U23s are mid-table in Premier League 2 in 7th place ahead of their final game of the season, a trip to relegated Manchester United.


Reader Comments (38)

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Ian Jones
1 Posted 18/04/2018 at 18:24:11
So, looks like we are in better shape than Man Utd's U23s if they are getting relegated...
Tony Everan
2 Posted 18/04/2018 at 19:04:41
The continuity for the U23s has been compromised somewhat but the first team's problems and David Unsworth doing a shift as caretaker.

Next season, David will have the boys back on track and challenging for the Premier League 2 title again.

Joe McMahon
3 Posted 18/04/2018 at 20:13:56
I'm probably on my own here, but I think David needs to leave. He's too cosy at Everton and with Bill (remember the "I speak to him everyday" comment). Joey Barton is going to manage Fleetwood and I feel David needs to drop down a few divisions also and manage a first team. It's good also to see Kevin Davies at Southport.
Steve Ferns
4 Posted 18/04/2018 at 22:24:21
This was always going to be a tough campaign for the U23s. I said at the start of the season that, with the likes of Davies, Holgate, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman, Niasse (he played a good few games last season), and Baningime moving up to the first team (and not playing for the U23s), and then the likes of Dowell, Robinson, Walsh, Connolly, Charsley, Williams, and Pennington out on loan and then Walsh and Jones (at least) being sold, then it was basically a new side. Watchers of the youth levels, like Dave Abrahams, will tell you that last years group was a superbly one-off talented one, and the year behind them was much less so.

There was talk on another thread of overhauling finch farm, cleaning out the "hangers-on" and implications for the likes of Jeffers and Ebrell and the rest of the former players on the coaching staff that we were just not good enough. I had a look at a few things. Firstly, no-one comes close to producing more internationals for England than Everton since 2000.

Furthermore, most of the rivals for this use players not from their local area, whilst ours have been predominantly from within 25 miles of the ground, ie Merseyside, Wirral, Wigan (Osman), etc. So in terms of coaching what we have to work with, we have been superb and have been so for a long time.

I listened to the James Wallace interview on the Royal Blue (Echo) Podcast and he was raving about our academy. He made the point at how many ex-Everton academy players make it lower down the league system, and no figures are given, but the level is extremely high.

In terms of professional footballers playing in the top 4 divisions of England, Liverpool produces more players than anywhere else in the country. Not per person, just more overall. Yes, even more than London. A great number of them have come through our system.

Sure, many are fleshing out League 1 and League 2, but so what? It just shows that our system works. And that means the job for the boys system works. The local lads relate to former players, particularly the local ones, they've been there, done it, and can pass their knowledge on, and the youngsters lap it up.

Joe McMahon (#3) is another who uses Unsworth's comment about talking to Bill every day to berate him. I wouldn't take it so literal. Unsworth is a guy who former players rave about, and has taken our successful academy to it's first Premier League 2 title. Let's not wreck the one good part of the club.

Just because the first team is a shambles, and we could do so much better commercially, let's not think that the whole club is a mess. The youth system works. Let them get on with things and be glad Unsworth wants to hang around there, particularly as it looks like by doing so he will miss the boat on his own ambitions of ever being a top class manager.

Kevin Tully
5 Posted 18/04/2018 at 22:46:15
Steve, the only 'stat' that matters is how many of these youth players have come through and cemented a place in the first team?

What are we? A production line to nurture lower League players? Wenger called Southampton's youth set-up a "football factory." I think you'll find they've produced far more players of note than we have over the period you mention.

Steve Ferns
6 Posted 18/04/2018 at 23:23:20
You're wrong, Kevin. We have produced more England internationals since 2000, from our academy, than any other Premier League club. So we produce the most at the "quality end" as well as being a production line for lower league players.

Southampton have produced a lot less than you think, and not one of them is a lad local to the club, all have been recruited. Whereas only Stones has been recruited for us, and all the rest are products of our coaching.

Maybe our coaching is not the very best of the Premier League academies, but it's one of them. And it's time you guys realised that, instead of putting pressure on something that's actually very good.

Chad Schofield
7 Posted 18/04/2018 at 23:49:14
Great stuff, Steve Ferns.

This expectation that we'll unearth gem after gem who'll immediately and consistently set the Premier League alight is ridiculous. One thing I'm concerned about is a clear out of backroom staff, as I think it'll leave us sterile and without a different offering.

Ultimately Unsworth probably has one, maybe two, seasons left where he is before he needs a different role and/or club.

I certainly hope Barton falls flat on his nasty little rat-like face.

Kevin Tully
8 Posted 18/04/2018 at 23:56:37
You're talking in riddles, Steve.

Bale, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaw, Lallana all academy graduates. What does it matter if they're recruited? Are we barred from recruiting the same players? Why point out England internationals only? A strange argument to make in a global game.

I'm not saying our academy isn't good by the way, and never have slated the work they do. We can't be producing world-beaters, can we? Not with the dross we've seen at Goodison Park for decades.

Andy Crooks
9 Posted 19/04/2018 at 00:12:31
Good post, Steve.
Steve Ferns
10 Posted 19/04/2018 at 00:25:06
The point is the quality of the coaching, Kevin. That we can produce so many more England internationals shows that we are doing things right.

Why England, because Liverpool is in England. Sure, it's a global game, but when we can continuously produce talent good enough for the England side then it shows you how good the youth coaching is. Now if we can recruit the youth players as well as Southampton have, then we can move onto another level.

My point is not that we're perfect, it's simply that the frustrations of the failures of the first team should not see pressure exerted on the youth setup and the bizarre blame levelled at Jeffers and Co.

David Barks
11 Posted 19/04/2018 at 00:40:47

Where in the world did you find the numbers to say we've produced more England internationals than any other club since 2000? Rooney, Barkley for a few games. I'm struggling to think of the Everton academy players to have played for England. Did Osman get a single Cap at some point?

Southampton alone I can think of Chambers, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw, Walcott, Ward Prowse.

Andrew Keatley
12 Posted 19/04/2018 at 01:52:18
A short stint on Wikipedia tells me that Ward-Prowse, Shaw and Oxlade-Chamberlain were all part of the Southampton academy by the age of 8, Lallana by 12, and Walcott around 14. Gareth Bale was supposedly attached to the Southampton academy from the age of 9.

The Everton academy players who have played for England since 2000 include Rooney, Jagielka (who left for Sheff Utd at 15), Baines (who left before making his professional debut for Wigan at around 18), Ross Barkley, Jack Rodwell (3 caps), Gavin McCann (1 cap), Leon Osman (1 cap).

Other full internationals include Richard Dunne (who joined the academy at 15) and Shane Duffy (who joined at 16).

Some other academy players who left the club, developed elsewhere, and are now internationals include Eric Dier and Shkodran Mustafi.

I don't know what any of this really tells us though. I think the Everton academy seems to do a good job (as does Southampton's) and I think that from the current crop of "academy" players who have seen first-team action this year (here or on loan) – Dowell, Kenny, Holgate, Baningime, Davies, Lookman, Calvert-Lewin, Connolly, Joe Williams, Robinson, Charsley, Galloway, Browning, Pennington, Hornby, Feeney, Broadhead, Denny and Gordon – it would be fair to say that there are some that are going to have significant careers – but whether it is here or somewhere else remains to be seen.

Steve Ferns
13 Posted 19/04/2018 at 02:25:53
Andrew, you can include Michael Ball, Francis Jeffers, and Joey Barton to your list. Barton was on our books before being released at the same time as jags and Baines, as smith sought to save a few quid.
Ian Bennett
14 Posted 19/04/2018 at 02:41:43
James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe played for other Premier League teams.

Some will make it in the Championship from the current batch, and then get another chance of Premier League – Walsh, Williams, Browning, Pennington, Galloway, and Connolly.

David Barks
15 Posted 19/04/2018 at 04:11:50

I think your claim has completely fallen apart. I'm sorry, but our academy in no way has been responsible for the most English internationals. Jagielka joined the Sheffield United Academy at the age of 15; we were not responsible for his development and can not stake claim to him.

We let Baines go and he joined Wigan, languishing three divisions below us. Joey Barton, he basically had a cup of tea with us before he went to City and was developed in their youth system, not ours.

I'm sorry, but we have a fairly poor record when it comes to developing players through our youth system into senior team contributors. Which is probably why we've turned to other clubs and signed players from their academy (Holgate, Stones, Lookman, Calvert-Lewin, etc).

Alan J Thompson
16 Posted 19/04/2018 at 04:21:34
Should we really be claiming Holgate, Lookman, Calvert-Lewin, Garbutt, Stones and Galloway as Academy players when they were signed from other clubs and seem, in most cases, to have played more games for the 1st XI than the U23s.

At the time, the age group that included Barton certainly and possibly Baines and Jagielka were let go, it was rumoured that there was a distinct attitude problem and Smith decided that it was easier to let the whole lot go rather than trying to sort out any "troublemakers" – rather than being solely for financial reasons... although, as I say, that was a rumour.

Alan J Thompson
17 Posted 19/04/2018 at 04:48:25
Oh, and just to add, the Unsworth speaking to Kenwright every day rather depends on who dialed whom. I find it difficult to believe Unsworth was asking for preferred team selections and it would be equally unwise not to speak to the Chairman when he rings you.

I would like to know, though, Unsworth's thoughts on the sale of Walsh.

Tony Abrahams
18 Posted 19/04/2018 at 07:51:24
Good point about Walsh, Alan J, but it's no wonder Unsworth found the job too hard if he was having to listen to Kenwright, talking bollocks every day.

I've just read the headlines of Schneideerlin saying how much he has been impressed by Beni, who is always asking questions so he can improve his game.

Nothing wrong with that but I hope the kid is not a good listener, though, because, if he his, then his game is definitely going to start going backwards if he's taking Morgan's advice.

John Graham
19 Posted 19/04/2018 at 08:42:46
Strange that the youth setup doesn't supply many players for other countries' national teams. Many Premier League teams now have academies full of players from other countries but, maybe apart from Arsenal, Chelsea and now Man City, it seems most are just average players.

Our Under-23s need a massive shake-up, starting with pushing the younger players through and releasing some of the older players, such as Baxter, Henen etc.

Also, the youth players need to see that there is a path through to the first team if they perform and that they are not just there to be developed as a supply for the Championship teams. Many of the players never get anywhere near to the first team, yet some players thrive on crowd atmosphere and pressure.

Rob Young
20 Posted 19/04/2018 at 08:43:19
Joe (#3), I agree with you.

He's done very well with the U23 and I'm sure he loves the club. He had a (slim) chance to prove/show himself for the top job which hasn't worked out for whatever reason.

If that is his ultimate goal for the future, he should go out there and manage in the Football League. If he's good enough, he will be noticed.

If all he wants to do is work for Everton, then fair enough I guess, being a great coach for the U23s is a decent career.

John Otway
21 Posted 19/04/2018 at 10:29:29
Andrew Keatley (#13).

I can't speak for the veracity of the rest of your Wikipedia research but Leon Osman gained two England caps.

Andrew Keatley
22 Posted 19/04/2018 at 12:22:00
John Otway (#22) – You are very right, sir.
Steve Ferns
23 Posted 19/04/2018 at 12:54:10
The point was simply that the youth setup is very good. That we have sustained success in team performances, individual performances, and have produced players of international quality. Therefore, any criticism of the coaching is unwarranted. I suspect it was all done without proper knowledge as just another stick to beat Kenwright with.

Is it really so hard to imagine that a former player, such as Jeffers, can become a top coach? He has a wealth of experience of playing under Moyes and Wenger. He was an international. Is it really so hard to believe that he could learn coaching theory and practice? Don't forget, he did a significant period unpaid whilst he gave it a go to see if coaching was something for him and to prove himself to the club.

The first team is a mess. We don't do well enough commercially. We are not properly marketed. These are all valid criticisms. The youth system is the one area of the club that is working properly. The issues regarding recruitment of youngsters have been addressed over the last 5 years or so with the likes of Mustafi, Stones, Calvert-Lewin, Holgate, Galloway, and Lookman, and last summer with players signed for the U18s.

Colin Malone
24 Posted 19/04/2018 at 13:18:12
Can someone please explain: Did these Premier League 2 winners just come through the Goodison door and David Unsworth coached them to title winners? No.

These lads were at the club from the age of 9 or 10. Coached by the unsung personnel who don't get any credit. The brickies and the chippies who built the house and Unsworth is the Estate Agent who gets all the credit. I could do Unsworth's job.

Simon Jones
25 Posted 19/04/2018 at 15:07:21
To anyone saying that David Unsworth needs to leave Everton, it might be that he thinks he has found his level?

I would suggest that most ex-players who were in charge of the reserves at a Premier League club had progressed to a high level in football.

Maybe his spell in charge was more chastening for him than we realise?

Roger Helm
26 Posted 19/04/2018 at 15:16:52
Premier League footballers are so expensive that, if the academy produces only two or three per decade, it will have paid for itself, won't it?
Michael Kenrick
27 Posted 19/04/2018 at 15:20:17
Colin (#25),

Did these Premier League 2 winners just come through the Goodison door and David Unsworth coached them to title winners? — Yes, some of them did, as noted above. Some of them not, as you say. Let's have some balance, please.

Sure, there's more than Unsworth in the coaching team and deserving of credit for last season's PL2 winning campaign. But I don't understand the need to denigrate Unsworth on that score... in fact, pretty pathetic if I'm being honest.

Paul Thompson
28 Posted 19/04/2018 at 16:45:25
A year ago, we were celebrating the success of Unsworth's title-winning squad. Now, apparently, some think he's stale and the whole system isn't worth persevering with. A certain lack of perspective is, not for the first time on this site, in evidence.

Continuity in development sides is impossible as success leads to break-up and dispersal (promotion, loans etc). The squad needs an overhaul and will get it. Unsworth has done it before and will do it again.

If you have a large academy set-up, it is simply a fact that the vast bulk of lads will not end up in the Everton first team. As long as enough do and we can help many of the rest to move on in their professional careers, that will be the measure of success; helping Everton to maintain its reputation as a club that nurtures and gives a chance to young talent.

Dave Abrahams
29 Posted 19/04/2018 at 17:28:31
Paul (#30) a good post, I think the academy right through to the U23s does very good job and more than pays for itself. The transfer fees we get for all the players that pass through the system are well worth the effort that goes into the system. Mistakes are made in letting players go. I'd also like to know more about the Liam Walsh transfer deal.

Regarding David Unsworth and this season's U23s team, it was massively interfered with and no manager could have made a success of the side with all the players who were taken out of it, even so some of the younger players who have come in: Evans, Gibson, Hornby and a few more, will I think provide a few more players to the Everton first team in the near future.

Maybe Unsworth is content and happy staying in this role, and as long as his standards don't slip I for one will be happy if he stays here. As for him speaking with Kenwright every day, nothing wrong with that — as long as he pays no attention to him when he talks about football.

Rob Dolby
30 Posted 19/04/2018 at 19:53:06
Unsworth only went up in my estimation during his caretaker role. He was dignified and displayed a passion for the club. He fronted every hacks question even though our own chairman was putting the boot in on him. He is undoubtedly a quality coach at that level.

My gripe is that we shouldn't be buying players for that level unless they are very close to the first team. There are local lads who can do a job with pride.

I bet the Man Utd team being relegated is full of young lads who are very technically gifted footballers but have lost their desire to win matches due to them being paid tens of thousands each week.

Colin Malone
31 Posted 19/04/2018 at 20:17:53
Michael @28.

Only time will tell. Maybe it's because of the rumours about, why Kevin Sheedy left the club that annoys me. Sheedy, who proved himself at the youth academy, who coached the players who are now in the Under-23 team.

As for Unsworth. I believe he relied on Joe Royle when he took over first-team duties, without success. If Dave Unsworth had any confidence in his coaching ability, he would and should go elsewhere to prove himself. Will he? No he won't.

Michael Kenrick
32 Posted 19/04/2018 at 20:25:59
Colin, I can understand you may have heard things that lead you to favour Sheedy over Unsworth. I know such scuttlebutt is rife around Everton.

At the end of the day, it's Unsworth who lead the U23 team to the PL2 trophy. It's Unsworth who was appointed caretaker manager in the most impossible of circumstances, and its Unsworth who chooses which of life's challenges to accept or pass on.

It's certainly not my place to be telling him what he should be doing with his life... is it really yours?

Steve Ferns
33 Posted 19/04/2018 at 22:04:10
Does anyone remember "the Everton Way"? This was a coaching programme ran by the blues. It was the brainchild of Tosh Farrell and basically sold our youth model and coaching setup around the world (China and USA in particular). It only lasted a short time and then Tosh Farrell left and basically has carried on the programme but runs it through his own "soccer school" with success in America.

Farrell had a reputation as the best technical youth coach in the country. He was responsible for teaching young Rooney and Barkley and everyone in between. Farrell didn't work with the 14, 15 and 16 year olds, he actually worked with the really young kids. He focused on making football fun for the kids (getting rid of the competitive elements for the young ones) and focused on skills and techniques. Most of these young kids want to run about with the ball and do tricks and flicks like they've seen on TV. I understand that Farrell was responsible for a constant production of two-footed players with great technique. He's then cashed in on this and makes a career for himself stateside.

I wonder if anyone can add to this, as he left the Everton picture quite some time ago and the last of his youth players was the Ross Barkley generation.

Peter Gorman
34 Posted 19/04/2018 at 22:26:54
Colin – weren't those rumours about why Sheedy left the club (no idea where they came from – did you start them?) pretty much debunked by Sheedy himself?
Phil Walling
35 Posted 20/04/2018 at 08:43:57
Unsey next to depart in the expected clear-out?
Colin Malone
36 Posted 20/04/2018 at 11:31:06
Peter @36.

No, I never started any rumours. All I know, is we got rid of a proven coach in Sheedy. A pretty shy man, who never talked the talk but he walked the walk and in my opinion could have progressed through the club, to be first team coach.

I'm 60 years old now, old enough to know and have seen people, not just in football, they can talk the talk but couldn't walk the walk and there are plenty of you out there who have witnessed the same.

Peter Gorman
37 Posted 20/04/2018 at 18:22:12
Colin, we may never know the truth but, in Sheedy's own words, it was his choice to leave for the challenge. Too good to turn down, he said. If true, we didn't get rid of him but he got rid of us.

I agree – he was a great youth coach.

Justin Doone
38 Posted 21/04/2018 at 03:29:18
I'm not convinced that the stated facts are true but I do think we have a good youth set up, not great. Moyes and Martinez both had a big say in developing it.

Football is full of fine margins and it's the same about young players between the few who progress and make it and the majority that don't. Different horses for different courses as they say. There isn't a simple formula but most great players and most sports stars, in general, come from poor to hard-working class families.

The city of Liverpool has produced many top class British and Irish players which coincides with the general class and immigration of the city. Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds are all similar in that respect. London has a massive mix of population and pool as its truly a global city. West Ham have produced a lot of top-class players.

I have no facts but from what I hear the reputation of Liverpool and Man Utd academies has always been top draw. The money and managers at Arsenal, Chelsea and City meant they went down the international route and have had good academies for around 10 years. I can remember Arsenal reserves on a few occasions embarrassing our first team.

We had a good bunch of players in the 90s, similar 10 years later and again over the last few seasons with only Barkley being a true gem. I think both Kenny and Davies are good Premier League players and I hope they continue to improve. The others we paid millions to bring in but Calvert-Lewin and Holgate also have the potential. Lookman was a big price and is still potential, I hope for the best but time will tell.

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