David Unsworth on managing loans and player development

Friday, 18 September, 2020 38comments  |  Jump to last
After a disappointing opening day fixture for the Under-23s, in which an older and more experienced line-up featuring a number of players who had been out on loan, lost to a surprise early goal from Liverpool last weekend, David Unsworth spoke to The Echo on the wider implications of his job and how he is always looking for the best ways to give each individual player what they need to succeed.

"A lot of people don't realise that the job is also managing young players when they come back from loans," Unsworth added.

"So we give them the game time to showcase them for a better loan, that's what the club has chosen to do and it's very difficult to loan young players.

"I would love our players to be a B-team playing in the football league. That's the best way to develop footballers.

"There's a certain process these young lads have to go through. Some do it quicker than others, some are a little bit slower, some have to go through the loan route.

"Managing the expectation when they come back from the loan or they come back from first team training is why we give them the facility to play in this team, to get themselves another loan to make the best of their careers.

"A lot of people think it's just about young players playing and they all seamlessly come through, it doesn't work like that. We have numerous players go out on loan and come back who don't get another loan team.

"We're very conscious that we manage it the way we do.

"If you're looking at that team today you're looking at Callum Connolly, Nathan Broadhead, Dennis Adeniran, Beni Baningime - they're players who should be and we want them to be out on loan."  

Reader Comments (38)

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Tony Abrahams
2 Posted 18/09/2020 at 08:17:24
So if they don't do well on loan then Everton get stuck with them which might then cause problems trying to give the younger players underneath them game time?

Might not have been such a problem in the past, it might have even given Unsworth the players to go and win the league, but things are obviously changing, which is going to create problems in the shorter term, especially during these uncertain times, with clubs lower down the ladder tightening their belts, which sounds to be adding to the frustration.

Phill Thompson
3 Posted 18/09/2020 at 09:11:15
Tony, in the past it's been reported that we still pay a portion of young players' wages if they go out on loan, so making it attractive for lower clubs. It gives the players game time, enables younger players to play at U23s and we'd end of paying their wages if they stayed... so win-win.

I suspect a lot of business will be done late as EFL clubs realise they need strengthening. It was curious though that Baningime was lined up to go to Blackpool on loan but it fell through cos we wanted to sell him. We may have to settle for loans even if we want to sell.

Michael Kenrick
4 Posted 18/09/2020 at 09:27:12
If you read this on the back of the clear frustration Unsworth had over this team's poor display last week, you have to ask questions about the management of these loan players. Are Everton managing them properly, as he implies?

To my mind, it seems that Unsworth would be expecting these players to slot back into the U23s and perform better on the back of the loan experience and added confidence they should have gained. The fact that they blatantly didn't surely reflects badly on the system?

The loan system must have a deflating effect, though, if a player expects to be taken on full-time, or to come back and vie for a slot in Everton's first team. Sadly, if you add up all the stats, the chances of that happening are so so small... it must be soul-destroying.

The downside of returning from a loan must be that dreaded feeling of making a step backwards or step down to be playing in PL2 when they have savoured the rarified professional life of being a first-team player. Did you ever get that far, Tony?

It must be super-hard to psyche yourself up for a game, even against the sworm enemy, if you have that stain of failure playing on your mind.

Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 18/09/2020 at 09:28:29
I suspect that the lower league clubs are really struggling financially Phill, because I watched about ten minutes of that Liverpool game, and they also seemed to have a few players in their side, who have also been out on loan.

I’d bet younger kids at premier league clubs earn a lot more than League one and two players, so I think a few more little bullets will have to be bitten, to move some of these players on?

Tony Abrahams
6 Posted 18/09/2020 at 10:10:08
I never did Michael, but I signed for Blackpool, for a few months and definitely should have been playing in their first team that got relegated when Jimmy Mullen got the sack, in my genuinely honest opinion.

I have got two Central league medals somewhere, (but more importantly, the experience of playing with and against many seasoned internationals), but just before I left Forest, I remember training with the youth team on a couple of occasions, and it was enjoyable because everyone could play two touch. I signed for Blackpool, and training was awful, simply because some of the first team needed three touches to get the ball under control (honestly, I’m not kidding) and could never reach ten passes in a big circle, with two players being piggy in the middle.

The moral of the story is, that it’s a completely different game in the lower leagues, (hopefully that’s changing) with the styles of football being like night and day, and it’s probably why Unsworth alludes to some players taking longer to adapt?

I have despaired at the powers that be for a long time now, kids of seven get put on muddy pitches in the middle of winter, with the biggest skill set required being strength. Roll your sleeves up and battle, it’s a great skill to have, but it’s sad that the surroundings and the conditions, make this the only thing possible to learn.

A monologue now, but I’ve never understood why under 23’S? it jumps 16’S to 18’S, then a five year gap to under 23’S. why not under 21, and then a smaller competitive reserve league, which I’m sure would have helped players like Moise Kean, adapt to English football a lot quicker, (if he’s going to really adapt?)

Brands is changing it round, but Covid is also a financial nightmare, so whilst I see what Unsworth is saying about having “B TEAMS” playing in the league, (Everton’s academy alone, will have a bigger budget, than most teams outside the championship I’d bet?) England has way to many professional clubs already to make this happen imo.

Maybe this will change, because a lot of clubs might end up going to the wall, but I prefer the Brands model, get the kids ready and prepared, then put them into competitive competition, because at the end of the day, it’s always been sink or swim in professional football anyway, it’s the nature of the beast, so to speak.

Robert Tressell
7 Posted 18/09/2020 at 13:06:29
Connolly, Broadhead, Baningime and Adeniran will not make it at Everton now.

We have to prioritise game time for the younger lads. Brands is doing the right thing.

Unfortunately it may mean having these 4 on our books but not playing them at any level, because they are not right for 1st team or U23s strategy.

Lower leagues are skint. But clubs in Scandinavia, Belgium even the US might take them. Tough times and players, like all of us, have to use a bit of imagination in the job market sometimes.

Bobby Mallon
8 Posted 18/09/2020 at 14:58:31
Micheal @4, surely Unsworth and the coaches know who is going to come through as a 1st team player in the Premier League. They should also be telling those that won't that it's in their own interest to look for a team in the lower divisions when they come back.

If these lads want to get 1st team football, they need to bite the bullet take a wage cut and go live the dream. If they don't, there will always be a hungrier talent waiting in the wings.

Joe McMahon
9 Posted 18/09/2020 at 15:23:19
Bobby @8, sadly we have players on the first team squad who are happy to stay at Everton even though they won't get first team football. Again because of thier ludicrous high salaries.
Tommy Carter
10 Posted 18/09/2020 at 15:33:46
Time for Rhino to move on for me. He's in a safe place. For his benefit, he needs to try and take on real management again.

For our benefit, new ideas, fresh thinking etc, as dictated by Ancelotti and Brands. No need for continuity and longevity in such a role.

We need someone more ruthless there who can help influence players out of the club before they are stagnating into their mid-20s.

Unsworth is charting about creating careers for lads in the lower leagues. Well I'm sorry, that should be a by-product of our system, not the purpose of it. The purpose should be to produce players good enough for our first-team squad.

Ruthlessness is for the benefit of both player and club. Not long-term contracts.

Not living in fear that we may get one wrong and let some slip through the net. Get them released, or sold at tribunal with buy-back clauses implemented.

Brian Temple
11 Posted 18/09/2020 at 15:46:29
The solution is to buy a team in Scotland and/or Wales and use them to blood our better youngsters. Real competitive football, possibly even European footy for them.

How much would it actually cost to buy one of these clubs? Less than £10m? If that gets us some competitive youngsters ready for the first-team, we'll have saved ourselves that with the first kid that breaks through.

Per Stumo
12 Posted 18/09/2020 at 15:58:18
Tony @7: In Norway the second string, or B-team if you will, does play in the football league but has to remain at least two divisions lower than the A-team at the beginning of a season. If a B-team in 2nd division ends up in a promotion spot at the end of the season, that spot is given to the next regular team on the table.

It's difficult to measure but I'm convinced the players on the B-teams benefit greatly from playing regular football in the way their club wants them to play. Assuming there is a red thread between the A-team and B-team style of play.

Joe McMahon
13 Posted 18/09/2020 at 16:22:45
Tommy @10 fully agree fresh ideas needed (new blood), though I just don't see him wanting to leave the North West. His family didn't want to settle in the south when he was at West Ham and we all remember his Villa career non-starting. He's probably earning a higher salary with U23s at Everton than a lower league managerial position also.

Don't know if you remember when he spoke to the media when he was briefly Everton manager, he stated that he speaks to Bill every day. He's part of the ever-growing Everton family.

Tommy Carter
14 Posted 18/09/2020 at 16:32:47
@14 Joe

No I didn't realise that. And it's just my own opinion, but I don't like it.

I'm a fan of Kenwright, reasons for why are for another discussion. But I genuinely didn't really like the dynamic between he and Moyes.

I definitely don't like the employment of Jeffers by EFC. I definitely didn't like the opportunity given to Jose Baxter by Kenwright. The Duncan situation is a strange one, although During his caretakership my mind was changed.

I'd like us to move beyond mediocrity at all levels of the club. Kenwright has given chances to a lot of former Evertonians who were part of a generation of players who achieved almost nothing for the club.

When FC Bayern Munich and Manchester Utd etc do it, they are employing serial winners. The same sadly can't be said of John Ebbrell.

It's here that I would like to see Ancelotti also change things. He was given his big break by Arrigo Saachi for the national team. Obviously Saachi saw many qualities in him. Most importantly, he as a player had been a serial winner under Saachi.

Darren Hind
15 Posted 18/09/2020 at 17:05:02
It always amuses me to see people who know absolutely nothing about what goes on at Finch Farm criticise the junior coaches and back room staff.

Our latest recruit has been in some of the world's greatest set ups and here's his take after having a look around when talking to Columbian and Spanish reporters:

"Everton are a club that means business. There are lots of serious minded people at all levels who are determined to achieve and that will ultimately mean winning trophies.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but it is long term. I've seen very positive signs. Trophies are more than a possibility. I'm hoping I can learn here and continue to improve as a player. Also I have a coach alongside who knows me well and I know him.

"I am a winner. A real winner. I can see plans here. The project is very serious. Everybody means business."

He's only been here a fortnight though. Plenty of time for the Finch Farm Fact Finders to put him straight.

Jason Li
16 Posted 18/09/2020 at 17:13:29
Here's one for innovation in football, sign a squad of ex League One Pros who are say 35 years old+, so they can play with the U23's on a weekly basis in a mixed team in behind closed door matches.

ex-Championship players if we can afford it, if out of contract for example.

Even out of contract Prem players who are in their late 30s on a year's contract.

All will be on much lower wages than in their prime.

Surely this is an instant solution to having our youth players playing against pros to learn the man's game, and learning alongside pro's too?

We can quickly see who is progressing internally learning from and playing against seasoned professionals.

One for the ideas pot?

Mike Allison
17 Posted 18/09/2020 at 17:18:02
Some interesting discussions on this thread. In particular there's this comparison between lower league clubs and Premier League academies or ‘B' teams.

British football is something of an outlier in this respect as many countries have ‘B' teams playing in the lower divisions. Greg Dyke's shake-up plans included introducing a division for ‘B' teams in England, with the specific intention of developing young players, but it was poorly received.

The EFL trophy was an attempt to do this in a milder way but has been undermined by a couple of factors, most notably that the best young players are out on loan so that the ‘big' U21 teams aren't at full strength. The lower league fans tend not to be interested in a competition they see as devalued either.

The financial impact of the Coronavirus could be an opportunity that the FA have been looking for to get this back on the agenda. As someone mentioned above, the Premier League ‘B' teams are much more financially secure than most of the smaller clubs in the lower divisions. The question then is: will we see significant changes in the structure of English football in the next 10-20 years?

If so, it will be at the expense of some of the smaller ‘community-based' clubs in the system, which will be a huge shame. On the other hand, young English players may get more opportunities to play meaningful competitive football.

Having said that, the current system has begun to ‘self-correct' with players from big English academies refusing new contracts and moving abroad to find their game time.

Plenty of interesting things to think about, but it definitely suggests to me that having relationships with clubs in other leagues (I'm thinking Holland, Belgium, Portugal – even Scotland) is a way for us to get more development into (or out of?) our young players during that ‘lost' period between 18-21.

Mike Allison
18 Posted 18/09/2020 at 17:27:02
Nice effort Jason, but the few thousand fans at the game who really care about the result are a really important factor that can’t just be ignored.

Even in these empty-stadium times, players still know that there are people out there who really, really care what happens. Your behind closed doors games are going to lack a hugely meaningful edge. I’d say the edge that makes all the difference.

Tony Abrahams
19 Posted 18/09/2020 at 18:08:20
It's clear to see there would be loads of advantages to playing a B-team, Per, but with 92 league clubs, then another 24 in the now called 5th division, just makes me think it's a closed shop.

Adopting another club, always seemed a better way to do it especially because some of the lower league clubs are really struggling financially.

I remember Chris Kowomya telling me he could have had the Tranmere job, but he turned it down because the budget for the whole club was £900,000, just before they dropped out the league, and this was around the same time someone at Everton told me the academies budget was £4.5 million a year.

Franny Jeffers went to the FA School of Excellence, as did John Ebbrell, so these fellas have effectively been involved in professional football since they were 14, and must therefore have loads of knowledge and experience to pass on to younger kids, and I'd say this can only be a good thing, imo.

Robert Tressell
20 Posted 18/09/2020 at 18:17:59
I like Brian's suggestion of buying a club in another league. Scotland possibly – or somewhere random like Sweden or Switzerland.

Foreign teenagers like Kean are expected to be men on arrival at Goodison. Our local lads like the very talented Dowell are playing well within their comfort zone into their early 20s.

It would do them a lot of good to experience something new and take responsibility on and off the pitch.

Buying a club may be a stretch too far but investment / close ties would not. And it would help solve our work permit woes.

Dave Southword
21 Posted 18/09/2020 at 18:18:01
I seem to recall we enquired about putting a B team into the league structure when Moyes was here but we were told they would have to begin at some extremely low level in the pyramid. If we had done that at the time, perhaps we would now have a National League or League Two team.

I suppose a quicker solution we could do right now is buy a team like Bury or Macclesfield and join the league with them. That would guarantee the training and facilities aspect of loans would be taken care of, but we would still need to loan players externally as if we had The Bury Toffees playing in League Two, they would be no use for our players who need experience at a higher level.

Jason Li
22 Posted 18/09/2020 at 18:39:45
Mike @18 - Agreed.

Playing in front of a paying and passionate crowd that can strongly voice their opinions is the mental side of the game a player needs to build up as a muscle, as an example.

It's good to look at new models to see what may work/not work in the new model idea. I'm looking at this like say the old landline telephone – we can spend ages trying to work out a way to get the cord to stretch around the house from the lounge or have internet capability in the old type of phone, or just build a mobile phone.

Would bringing in ex-pro's as "coaches" who can give our 17-,18-,19-year-olds a game on a weekly bases at near Premier League level imitating the higher intensity and men's way of playing improve our youth team more quickly. Plus, there's nothing to stop a youth player going on loan if a club comes in for them. Meanwhile, internally, they are having a match in as close to professional league match conditions as possible, and can understand Unsworth's instructions on how to push our youth players in each game, different positions et cetera with pro coaches with legs.

Yes, maybe a lot wrong with the idea. But let's say the club announced they were doing this, what would we say to this idea? Overall, just about good or a bad idea?

James Carroll
23 Posted 18/09/2020 at 18:42:26
We should partner with an MLS team – like Man City originally did with NYC FC – and send a few youngsters there each year. Great for marketing Everton in the USA, also – Tim Howard could even help out.

We should maybe look at DC United, who are struggling right now – but have a strong/large fanbase, plus the Rooney connection (and maybe Sigurdsson someday, we've heard?)

Darren Hind
24 Posted 18/09/2020 at 18:57:48
I think it's worse for the players when Goodison descends into silence.

It's bad enough without fans, but a full, silent stadium has become commonplace in recent seasons.

By no means blaming the fans, Patrick. Some of our football throughout the past 4-5 seasons would be enough to send anyone into silent depression.

Justin Doone
25 Posted 18/09/2020 at 19:46:08
I think loans in general are positive and more club's and transfers should be operated as a pre-agreed permanent deal should all parties agree post loan.

The sad truth is more players will be let go by their parent club then make it. It's the same in all walks of life.

Theirs is no ready fit, "One way suits all" age, size, skill set, that can be a template of when or which player is ready for their next challenge.

It's an opinion, a judgement call which is based on experience, the needs at any particular moment, timing and above all else a little bit of luck.

Imagine Messi being spotted by Bolton, Stoke or Wimbledon.

Andy McNabb
26 Posted 18/09/2020 at 23:53:21
Thanks Michael, for asking Tony to share his experiences. Really interesting to hear from someone who has 'been around the traps'. After my experience of coaching my son's adult team for years, this has been the most interesting article I have seen for a while.

This is about real football and real footballers, who sadly we don't hear enough about as we are blinded by the lights shone on the 'stars'.

Tony, I would like to hear more of your experiences. I'm sure that would shine a light on what really happens at our club, rather than what the tabloids want to tell us.

Tony Abrahams
27 Posted 19/09/2020 at 09:44:28
It’s not really about me Andy, but one thing I can say is that after I left Blackpool, I trained and played a few games for Everton, and was at the club when Colin Harvey was sacked. The reason I say this is because every fanzine was slaughtering Darrocott and Lyons, and they were getting most of the stick at the end of Colin Harvey’s regime.

I couldn’t speak for Terry Darracott, because he was with the first team, but Mick Lyons, was a cracker, I liked his coaching, and I loved his enthusiasm for Everton. He was a genuine fella, and much better than the phoneys I’d left behind at Forest, and he had nothing to do with Everton’s first team at the time, even though I sensed he would have ran through a brick wall for Everton.

If anything I thought Mick was to nice, and was definitely getting a hugh amount of unwarranted stick, for something that he had nothing whatsoever to do with.

Brian Williams
28 Posted 19/09/2020 at 09:57:00
Darren I don't think it's actually just the quality of play that has an effect on the sound levels.
I think it's to do with the supporters themselves.
I look at the likes of Bournemouth, Palace and a few other teams who's fans (annoyingly to me) never shut the fuck up from start to finish. Their teams have no chance whatsoever of competing near the top yet their enthusiasm and noise levels never seems to drop.
Is it a regional thing? Because Man City fans can often be quiet and that's while watching a superb team with a wealth of talent on show every home game.
Are we "too cool" in the North West to sing and bang drums from minute one to minute 95+?
Do we tend to look down on the "woollies" that do it?
Playing devil's advocate here not putting forward a personal opinion.
Kevin Prytherch
29 Posted 19/09/2020 at 10:00:49
I think noise comes with expectation.

Lower teams fans are happy to survive, so everything is worth cheering for.

City’s fans expect to be entertained - so they only make noise when something genuinely exciting happens.

We have had high expectations for a number of years and the players haven’t lived up to them. Therefore we don’t make noise and are disappointed when mistakes are made - hence the groaning.

Paul Smith
30 Posted 19/09/2020 at 10:07:00
Tommy why don’t you like Baxter & Jeffers being employed by Kenwright ?
Steve Ferns
31 Posted 19/09/2020 at 10:21:15
Sorry Kevin, City fans were like that before they had money.
Tommy Carter
32 Posted 19/09/2020 at 10:27:23
@30 Paul

Baxter. Had his opportunity and blew it. As soon as it’s drugs it’s a no from me. Enjoys keeping bad company rather than playing football.

Jeffers. Handed in transfer requests and tried to hold the club to ransom. Professionalism in the toilet throughout his playing career.

More recently, crimes that reflect his character. Threatened to put his ex wife ‘in a coffin’.

Besides, who else wants or wanted Jeffers in their coaching setup? What are his credentials? As far as I can see he’s just worked his way up through the Kenwright benevolent system.

@19 Tony. I respect your opinion. However, not sure that there is any correlation between lilleshall graduates and successful coaching. Yes Ebbrell had good pedigree. He had a distinctly average top flight playing career unfortunately. Villa have John Terry in their setup and as much as I dislike Terry, his experiences in the game are at the absolute elite level, in dominant and winning teams. They looked beyond the villa affinity and I think it would benefit us to do so too. But of course, I want them to be a good coach also.

Brian Williams
33 Posted 19/09/2020 at 10:28:36
......................and if it's purely down to expectation I'd have to say that only the most blue tinted Evertonian has expected us to compete at the top for a long long time if truth be known.
Dave Abrahams
34 Posted 19/09/2020 at 10:36:20
Kevin (29), Kevin to be honest, when you hear the loud groaning, it’s because players keep making basic mistakes that professional footballers shouldn’t make, like simple passes that go out of play, failing to look up when putting centres into the box, witness Walcott v Sheffield Unt, at the end of the season,, etc, etc,
Tony Abrahams
35 Posted 19/09/2020 at 17:49:06
No argument from me Tommy, but Terry is coaching at the top, whilst the two I mentioned are coaching players at a much younger age bracket.

I’ve watched Everton for a long time Tommy, and think Francis Jeffers left Everton way to soon, but that’s what Kenwright brought to the table, and all our talented kids left to early.

Jeffers never had the career his talent warranted imo, to much to soon maybe? But if he can teach the kids, some of the most natural forward movement I’ve witnessed watching Everton, then I’m certain he will be a good coach.

Ebbrell, had a decent if not great Everton career, and he reminds me of Carragher, in that they both became what I would describe as textbook footballers? Maybe it was something to do with the way they were both coached from a very early age at Lilleshalle, because England as a nation, has always seemed to produce a lot of orthodox footballers?

Tony Abrahams
36 Posted 19/09/2020 at 17:52:41
I’m surprised Jeffers was allowed back whilst Kenwright was still involved at Everton, Tommy? Maybe Bill holds him dear because he made a lot of money by selling him to Arsenal, whilst also casting Jeffers as the naive young villain, who had to put in a transfer request, which was granted right away.
Peter Gorman
37 Posted 20/09/2020 at 13:35:02
B teams would not just benefit the elite clubs but also the the national team. Most people have known this for a long time and most fans (obviously those of the elite clubs) would support the idea.

Those that don't support the idea are the lower tier clubs in the football pyramid, and for good reason. Their longevity and heritage is worth preserving even if it is a modern curse.

What might work as a compromise is greater freedom for the elite clubs to 'twin' with a local lower-league side - things like unlimited loans, coach and facility sharing etc. It could be done to effectively create 'B teams' in all but name whilst also serving as a boost to local lower league sides (some with over 100 years of heritage) whilst preserving their dignity.

And if that sounds like exploitation then surely it is preferable to clubs like Macclesfield Town disappearing altogether.

Tony Abrahams
38 Posted 20/09/2020 at 14:37:18
Makes a lot of sense Peter, especially in these very uncertain times. I have often thought that the bigger clubs run their academies like a business, and kids who might not be ready are not given any time to develop.

You see loads of skilful kids get cast aside because they might not be ready physically, because even at academy level, it seems like the game is about “the now” or maybe even more about the coach, and what he’s trying to do, rather than about developing individual talent, so maybe they could also have “B Team academies” that could concentrate on these type of young kids?

David Currie
39 Posted 21/09/2020 at 21:31:35
Tony 38,

Enjoyed reading your posts and agree with you on U18-U23 being too big a gap.

I think the young academy players miss out on not playing Central League or Reserve team football, when a young 16-, 17- and 18-year-old would be playing with and against seasoned pros.

When I was 15 and 16, playing on a Saturday morning for my school team, then playing Sunday League against men in their 20s and 30s against some ex-pros. It definitely improved us younger lads and was a massive help in development.

Later, I played at Accrington Stanley and Nelson FC before going to play in Australia. In 1995, I emigrated to San Diego and have worked as a youth coach for 25 years.

There have been some very good Academy players over here although they just closed down the academies, but I feel that they would benefit from playing against older more experienced players.

Now they have an MLS elite reserve U12-U19 league starting this year. The players I have coached at club level have never really played against anyone older in competitive games give or take 1 or 2 years.

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