Among a number of accusations made against him during the season, one comment that cropped up more than a couple of times claimed that David Unsworth had been padding his Under-23 squad with older players who should have been let go.
The thrust of the claim was that Unsworth had been retaining the more experienced players too long so that he could win trophies, at the expense of giving younger players game-time to get them ready to step up to the first team.
I found the comment more than a little annoying – not just because I thought it was a cheap and relatively easy shot, but that it was almost certainly based on some preconceived notion rather than any facts – common enough of course in this blighted era of 'fake news'.
But how do you counter that? Well, I had the tools to hand in the form of a spreadsheet. The only thing missing (until now!) was the time to waste compiling the data, running the numbers, and calculating some super-accurate results.
So: Just how old are the Under-23s?
Maybe we should have an online quiz to see what people think or believe... but intuitively you would expect them to fall somewhere between 18 and 23, surely?
The table below lists the games from the aborted Premier League 2 season, with the average age of the 11-man starting line-up provided for each game:
|Aug 12||Leicester C||H||0 - 0||20.2|
|Aug 18||Wolves||A||0 - 0||21.5|
|Aug 23||Arsenal||A||2 - 2||20.0|
|Aug 30||Southampton||H||8 - 2||20.2|
|Sep 16||Blackburn R||H||2 - 1||20.3|
|Sep 20||Brighton||A||2 - 1||20.0|
|Sep 27||Man City||H||2 - 2||20.2|
|Oct 18||Derby C||A||1 - 4||20.1|
|Nov 2||Liverpool||A||1 - 2||19.5|
|Nov 22||Tottenham H||H||1 - 3||19.8|
|Dec 9||Leicester C||A||1 - 2||19.5|
|Dec 16||Wolves||H||3 - 2||19.2|
|Jan 6||Southampton||A||1 - 1||20.0|
|Jan 13||Arsenal||H||3 - 3||20.3|
|Jan 24||Chelsea||H||2 - 2||20.3|
|Jan 31||Man City||A||3 - 4||19.7|
|Feb 17||Derby C||H||2 - 1||20.1|
|Mar 2||Chelsea||A||0 - 1||19.8|
If you go further and take the season average for all those games, you come up with just 20.0 years. Surely bang on the money, I would have thought?
Players' ages are calculated from their birth date to the day of the match. This is not strictly the same as the league's Under-18 or Under-23 criterion, which is defined by a player's age on January 1.
The highest average age, against Wolves, was indeed the result of David Unsworth selecting an older player: Cuco Martina, whose advanced age of 29.9 years on the day certainly skewed things. But that was in just one match.
The only other occasion when a player older than 23 appeared was Harry Charsely, in his last appearance against Spurs before being released in January. Most will remember Charsley being a special charity case where the club rather generously extended his contract for 6 months to allow him to fully recover from injury and regain match fitness before he was moved on.
The accusation is really so far off the mark. If anything, Unsworth has utilized players who are younger than you might expect, with Under-18s in the starting line-up on no less than 14 occasions.
So, case closed.
Reader Comments (32)
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
1 Posted 31/03/2020 at 13:47:07
I guess they might come back alleging that this year is different as indicated by a much less successful season. I wonder if the average age last year was significantly higher when we won trophies?
2 Posted 31/03/2020 at 14:30:40
3 Posted 31/03/2020 at 14:55:11
I was pondering that question, Dave: I think you're right. I'll have to go back and do it for the previous three seasons too!
4 Posted 31/03/2020 at 15:15:55
Oh, and what effect, if any, has a steady stream of different managers had on this age level?
5 Posted 31/03/2020 at 16:06:41
It can't all just be, "Everton are shitty at producing..."
6 Posted 31/03/2020 at 16:15:54
7 Posted 31/03/2020 at 17:00:46
Tommy (#6); and what further chances has Dowell been given with us? I'm not entirely a believer that, if they don't make it on loan they wouldn't have made it with us, but I would like to see us take a chance at some time.
8 Posted 31/03/2020 at 17:14:39
Alan (4) In response to your last question, I think the rapid turnover has had a significant effect along with the plethora of new players flooding into the club every summer. Struggling managers have wrestled with how best to use the expensive imports. Expecting them also to familiarise themselves with the Under 23s and work out how any of them might fit into the first team set-up was almost a non-starter.
The players who have stepped up, principally Davies, Holgate and Calvert-Lewin, have done so because there were gaps which could not be filled by any other means. Hence the likes of Kieran Dowell who has had two league cup appearances in the last three seasons have had little or no opportunity to progress. In front of him in August 2017 were Rooney, Sigurdsson and Klaassen. Koeman, Unsworth and Allardyce never did work out how to use those three. In the meantime, Dowell was farmed out to an average Nottm Forest team for whom he started well but fell away after a change of manager.
9 Posted 31/03/2020 at 17:51:23
For those not aware, Michael lives in the Seattle area, which has been Ground Zero for the virus in the US. New York City may be getting all the headlines now, but Seattle has been under the cosh since late January, a week after Wuhan blew up.
10 Posted 31/03/2020 at 18:40:13
Back on the football, I'd love us to really focus on local youth. The quality is there I am convinced (and just as convinced of the abject shitness of foreign / has been players we spend a fortune on). Football is about identity and purpose and we need to regain ours – with the academy as the best place to start.
11 Posted 31/03/2020 at 19:14:36
As for me in Oregon, I'm in an area not yet touched by the virus -- the nearest confirmed case is 100 miles away. Hope you and yours are keeping safe as well.
12 Posted 31/03/2020 at 19:39:27
Thanks Michael, I didn't know where you lived and how bad your city has been affected, but ToffeeWeb has been a godsend at times mate — so thank you very much, to both yourself and LL!
13 Posted 31/03/2020 at 19:40:49
Why?? Couldn't it happen again??? Them days, you had time to cultivate players and mould them. Now, everyone wants instant success. We were once called the Millionaires Club. But even then, we could only afford one star a season, be it, West, Kendall or a Ball.
14 Posted 31/03/2020 at 19:43:58
Mate, have you found the washing machine yet? 😂
15 Posted 31/03/2020 at 19:58:11
16 Posted 31/03/2020 at 20:01:07
17 Posted 31/03/2020 at 20:16:02
18 Posted 31/03/2020 at 20:25:24
One I like (I'll get back to the topic in a second. We are not in a rush to do something are we?) is comparing results this season to last. Consistently, season after season between 45-55% of results are exactly the same. So whilst it is often decried as rubbish, it has some sense of predictability.
But back to the topic, I have a spreadsheet of players minutes on the pitch going back to the 1984-85 season (how sad is that? Very!! I hear you cry). Now it was in the day of 1 sub, not the any 3 from 7 and maybe not a squad game like today, but the first choice team started 92% of the games. But the average age of the team running out was 24 years 4 months. And they aged 9 months over the season! That means 24y at the start of the season and 24y9m at the end gives an average of 24y4m.
Compare that against the current squad. The last 38 game is a team with an average age of almost 26y4m. 2 years older on average than the team that walked away with the League Championship.
Perhaps that makes 29th May 1985 even more of tragedy for our club. It was a very young side. Even Andy Gray was 29 and Peter Reid 28 when we collected the trophy.
And the oldest - during 2011, the average age was 30 years 8 months. Howard, Hibbert, Distin, Neville, Osman, Saha, Cahill all over 30 and Jagielka 29.
19 Posted 31/03/2020 at 20:34:41
We are currently renting a place just outside Tiverton in Devon, and what a lovely part of the British countryside this is!
The huge irony is that I had to persuade my US firm that I could be just as effective working remotely (this was a month or two before Covod-19 hit)... and now the whole company is doing it!
But yea, we were actually living in downtown Kirkland, which is at the heart of the King County epicentre. I guess you could say we did a runner.
20 Posted 31/03/2020 at 20:55:50
Forgive me if we've discussed this before, we did have a Comparisions thing going a few years back, doing what you described. I'd modelled it on something from the matchday programme that gave this information.
It's been a few years and I found updating it from one season to the next especially taxing of my limited spreadsheet skills... But my desire was to include it on the site.
Here's a link to the last one: 2006-07 Comparisons.
If you have something that fits the bill and would be okay having us publish it... just saying!!!
21 Posted 31/03/2020 at 20:56:52
Brian #14, yes I have, and she is quite noisy. I'd tell you her name but I'm afraid it would get back to my wife. (Kidding! Kidding!)
22 Posted 31/03/2020 at 21:08:10
23 Posted 31/03/2020 at 22:36:51
I like to maintain a spreadsheet of all the players I would like Everton to buy. This has become immensely detailed over the years (been doing it since I was about 13). I use it to 'scout' players from across the globe and to spend (in my own warped version of reality) Moshiri's money wisely.
Obviously it is a complete waste of my time. It is interesting to no-one but me. But I am glad I have a kindred spirit with his own utterly pointless spreadsheet that (and I'm biased) sounds even less interesting to the average fan than my own. Thank god for ToffeeWeb.
24 Posted 31/03/2020 at 23:48:30
Thankfully, Mike, I know that the good guys like you and Jamie and many, many others are keeping watch. Who will vote for him in November?
I fear the virus in US will peak around then and we will have an unelected Trump with special powers. I prefer Putin, mainly because he humiliated Trump and exposed him as a coward.
Sorry about the rant. Love USA, hate Trump and the cowards who stand behind him.
25 Posted 31/03/2020 at 23:52:10
26 Posted 01/04/2020 at 03:09:36
With the likes of this pandemic, climate change and leaders like Putin and Trump being popular despite their flaws being well known, things have a very End of Days feel at the moment!
27 Posted 01/04/2020 at 04:00:10
But you'd better backpedal on that Putin comment, dude. Trump is a megalomaniac clown, but he's not assassinating opponents, invading other countries and sabotaging democracies.
28 Posted 01/04/2020 at 05:42:15
29 Posted 01/04/2020 at 10:31:03
30 Posted 01/04/2020 at 00:02:33
Who has Unsworth actually developed, only Tom Davis has broken through and he's been with the first team for years... Everybody in football laughs at Everton's U23s because they put results before development. They won things in the past with Oumar Niasse playing centre-forward, fact. Hilarious.
31 Posted 02/04/2020 at 16:45:38
U23s have not won anything this year, they have also not won many games, so you need to research the years that they did win, and I am sure they played with prominently older players than the opposition, Omar Niasse, Jose Baxter, Brendon Galloway, Tyas Browning, Harry Charsley etc etc
This year they havent been much good at all, why? Because the team is slightly younger than previous seasons, but still players are over 20...
Players over the age of 20 should be moved up to the first team or sold or released, not playing in a whats described as a Mickey Mouse league!!!
32 Posted 02/04/2020 at 17:51:03
After all, clubs do name squads of 25 players of which no more than 14 of the 18 named are going to run on in any given week.
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.