One bright light (and it could have been two)

by   |   06/08/2020  5 Comments  [Jump to last]

Amidst the gloom and depression of the last 12 months of football, there is one bright light that some of us may have missed.

The average age of the 11 players taking the field during the season was the lowest for 21 years. The season 1998-99 had an average age of 25 years and 8½ months. The team this season just finished was only just over 26 years old (by 24 days).

And even better was that the substitutes put on the field (weighted to the minutes on the pitch) brought the average age of the players down by another 17 days to just over 26 years old.

And all of this was despite Coleman, Baines, Walcott, and Sigurdsson being over 30 and combining to be effectively 2 of the 11 players usually selected (or ineffectually, if you wish). They were on the pitch for 6,133 minutes between them out of the 37,620 total player-minutes (38 games x 90 x 11 players).

Put in Jonjoe Kenny at right-back and our back five and front two averaged under 25 at the end of the season. So a revolution started by Marco Silva to reduce the age of the team has been taken even further.

In our last match, for a brief 8 minutes, we had Kean, Gordon and Branthwaite on the field together. Three teenagers. As we all know, we just need to sort out the midfield and maybe in more ways than one!

Another fact about the change is that Coleman is now the oldest player and even he will not be 32 until October. Sylvan Distin was over 37 when he retired, Davy Weir was 36½, Alan Stubbs 35½, Richard Gough 39 and Dave Watson 38.

Perhaps it is a measure of the speed needed in today’s Premier League that players who we largely revere as being solid and dependable, would not be able to make it today. Perhaps a good reason to think that Ivanovic’s dream of having one last pay day on Merseyside can be filed as just that, a dream.

So our future is perhaps brighter than we think. A team growing up together with just the need for four guys in the middle of the park to protect the back four and provide the service to the two up front. Fanciful? Yes, and maybe one that will bring howls of derision for team selection:

Kenny, Branthwaite, Holgate, Digne
Iwobi, Davies, Gbamin, Gordon
Richarlison, Kean

This line-up has an average age of 23 and just 3 days. They should be only able to get better, although some of you will suggest that some of these 11 will never get any better.

Give it time and Carlo...

And some postscripts:

1) The team In 1998-99 was managed by whom? Yes, the man famed for bringing in every “has-been”, every faded star, to ever to wear a blue shirt. Mark Hughes, Paul Gascoigne, Jesper Blomqvist, David Ginola all brought to the club by Walter Smith. But in his first season, he sent out a team every week with at least one teenager and on many occasions with three: Dunne, Ball and Cadamateri or Jeffers.

2) And the only team even younger? The one in 1984-85 and 1985-86. The Champions were an average age 24 years 4½ months. Not even Andy Gray was over 30. It just proved Hanson was right – “You never win anything with kids”.

3) And there could have been a second bright light to this piece – but that was extinguished on 26th July. It could have been 12 games unbeaten at home which would have only been the third time this century that we have gone so long without a defeat at Goodison. Just have to start all over again.

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Reader Comments (5)

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Darren Hind
1 Posted 06/08/2020 at 19:15:30
Every single point you make had gone under my radar Phil.

I would be lying if I said you had made this grumpy arl fucker smile. but you have injected some semblance of a silver lining into this piece.

Mike Gaynes
2 Posted 06/08/2020 at 20:33:16
Phil, yes, and the lineup gets even a tad younger if you go 4-3-3 and insert Calvert-Lewin in place of Iwobi or Gbamin (whose future inclusion is wildly optimistic in my opinion).

Great article.

Derek Taylor
3 Posted 07/08/2020 at 18:40:21
So what, who cares about age if the team is next to hopeless? Too many on here see any player near or at 30 as over the top. The fans queue up to piss off the likes of Baines and Coleman when their prospective replacements are not in the same class!
Tony Everan
4 Posted 08/08/2020 at 12:19:10
It is a trend I think Brands wants to follow and nurture.

I think most great teams have a balance that works,

Two or three older, wiser players with guile and intelligence 29-33. A core of approx. 5-7 Prime players 24-28, and a compliment of 2 or 3 younger players 19-23.

All very loosely applied, it all depends on resources of course.

Jerome Shields
5 Posted 08/08/2020 at 14:39:28
Phil, you describe a subtle change that has been going on for a while. The academy is now developing players up to 17 and the Under 23 are closer to being a Under-18 side. Players like Branthwaite are being brought in at 19. Gone are the days of the oldest Under-23 side in the PL2.

Brands on his appointment took on all levels of acquiring and letting go players and implemented the above policy Also players will be loaned out for experience at 18, not in their 20s. Those who are loaned out in their twenties are in the shop window. Kenny will be loaned out next season again.

I do not have a special insight, but by questioning the current youth policy I got an insight of the above changes from ToffeeWebbers who have been watching the youth teams play over recent years and noticed changes.

The same is happening in the first team squad, Delph being the unexplainable exception, as you have outlined. You have spotted a trend of the development a young team that will be together when they hit their prime. Transfers in will be in line with this policy, with the continuous develop of replacements at youth development level.

Whilst up to now we have not seen the benefits, because of the poor coaching of Silva, the training and coaching of Ancelotti should push this younger team on.

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