How can our academy improve?

Robert Tressell 13/11/2021 89comments  |  Jump to last
There have been a few good articles and debates recently about the state of our academy. I thought it would be interesting to compare it to (a) other Premier League academies for output, and (b) other celebrated academies in Europe. This might give us an idea of how we’re really doing and how far we’ve got to go. Also, how we might do it.

Other Premier League academies

Out of the established Premier League clubs, academy graduates still in or around the first team at Premier League level (or thereabouts) include:

- Man City: Foden, Doyle
- Man Utd: Rashford, Greenwood, McTominay, Henderson, Keane, Evans, Tuanzebe, Welbeck and Lingard
- Chelsea: Mount, James, Hudson-Odoi, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Gallagher, Anjorin, Oina, Tomori, Musiala, Guehi, Lamptey, Livramento, Abraham and Bertrand
- Liverpool: Arnold, Jones, Williams, Williams, Coady
- Arsenal: Smith-Rowe, Saka, Maitland-Niles, Nelson, Nketiah and Iwobi
- Spurs: Winks, Kane, Tanganga, Skipp, Walker-Peters and Townsend
- Everton: Barkley, Davies, Gordon

I’ve excluded players like Sterling, Sancho, Dier and others who were really someone else’s academy players before being pinched. Also, players like Calvert-Lewis, Holgate, Branthwaite, Stones etc who were already playing professional games when we picked them up.

As you can see, we have a pretty mediocre track record at best and Chelsea and Man Utd are ahead of the rest. Chelsea have done really great things with their academy and Man Utd, under Solskjaer, seem to be re-connecting with their academy after years of fruitless spending. Man City have done really badly but there is a really strong group coming through with the likes of Rogers, McAtee, Harwood-Bellis and others. They will get there before too long.

We also have a decent but unspectacular group including Simms, Dobbin, Lawrence, Whitaker, Heath, Metcalfe, Onyango, Price, Warrington, Welch and Leban amongst others. Hopefully there will be 2, 3 or 4 proper first-teamers to emerge from that group.

This seems to be an early indication that, despite crap results, the Brands restructure of the Academy is paying off – with the most talented lads being fast-tracked, rather than stagnating behind experienced but low-quality 20-somethings. Fingers crossed.

What of academies in Europe?

I was initially thinking here of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Ajax, PSG, Lyon and (just for Danny O’Neill) Schalke given the volume of high quality they churn out. Picking on possibly the least renowned academy, PSG, their output is simply staggering.

Recent graduates include Rabiot, Kimpembe, Ikone, Nkunku, Zagadou, Nianzou, Dagba, Areola, Coman, Guendozi, Eduoard, Dembele, Diaby, Maignan, Soumare and they have a good bunch coming through in Pembele, Ebimbe, Kalimuendo, Fadiga and others.

Could you imagine this sort of talent production line coming out of Finch Farm? Alas, neither can I.

So with this in mind, I thought it might be more interesting to look at a few excellent academies which aren’t supported by super-rich clubs. This might help make us feel less defeatist. (Sorry Danny, I ran out of time and energy to look at Schalke…)

Ajax

I’m not going to do anything more than chuck out a few stats and facts here and you can make up your own mind as to whether we could ever be like them:

- 30% of top flight players in Netherlands have attended the Ajax academy at some point
- Built on (i) ball control (ii) positional play (iii) movement habits (iv) mindset (v) Technique, Intelligence, Rapidity and Personality
- All age groups play high tempo 4-3-3
- Ethos: the club will only resort to buying players if there are no suitable options within the academy; so, if you’re good enough, you get a chance
- They provide personal education and skills training in addition to the football
- Academy players are not kept away from their family and friends and are encouraged to play football with friends in local parks
- Must live within 35 km of Amsterdam, with a maximum journey time of 90 minutes
- Tension and stress actually used to toughen kids mentally and differentiate the great players from the players with only potential

This is really just scratching the surface with the calibre of coaching (and famous names in the coaching set up) is really amazing.

Atalanta

Northern Italy is a bit like the North-West of England. It is packed with top-flight teams from Turin and Milan. Atalanta is the least famous of the 5 but punching above its weight because of investment in the academy.

As well as an extensive local network, it scouts heavily abroad and has made a fortune from selling Kulusevski, Diallo and Barrow. Talented young players refine their skills on loan in Serie B in readiness for the first team. Their home-grown talent is beginning to emerge now too. They are building up a really good group and it is no accident.

Nordsjaelland

This is a bit different. This not very famous club from Denmark has teamed up with an academy in Ghana set up by a former Man Utd scout in 1999. They typically field a first team with an average age of 21 or under comprising Danes, Ghanaians and Ivorians. Damsgaard, Skov Olsen, Kudus and Sulemana have all graduated recently and would all certainly grace our squad.

And this is more than just a football conveyor belt from Africa. This is about developing and educating, with college options in the US and UK accompanying the football stuff. It looks like this club could become an important starting point for very talented players.

What about us?

For me, this all suggests that improvement in the academy is both worthwhile and possible.
You only need to watch us play at U23 level to see we have a long way to go even if the current crop is promising. There’s very little style, the football is “traditional” and not in a good way, and there’s no structure to possession (contrast the sophisticated drills, creation of passing lanes and space adopted in Barcelona’s La Masia). We seem to score goals from set-pieces, forcing mistakes, and the odd bit of quality individual play. The education our lads are getting is okay but the looks of things but plenty of room for improvement.

So boiling it down, moving forward successfully seems to hinge on a few things:

- Offering a genuine route to the first team
- Offering more than just a footballing education
- Offering exceptional coaching based on a club-wide ethos / footballing identity
- Serving the local community
- Scouting effectively internationally

Whilst none of these things are easy, I think the examples of Atalanta and Nordsjaelland show that you don’t need to be an established Champions League club to be successful. And you don’t need Red Bull’s millions to do it from a standing start.
We have really good facilities, we’re just not getting the most out of them.

Personally, I would like us to be the “goto” club in the North-West by (like Ajax) working to a principle that we only buy if the academy cannot deliver. This might mean, for example, being patient with Gordon – instead of buying in someone like Golovin who we keep getting linked with.

This switch of emphasis to an academy-led club would make us more likely to attract those who will be blocked by established stars (or worse still, really mediocre players) elsewhere. For goodness sake, we must never buy a Cuco Martina or Solomon Rondon ever again. If we’re going to have crap players on the books, they might as well be local.

Out of nostalgia and emotional connection as much as anything, I would like us to tap into traditional bases like Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Players like Aaron Hickey at Genoa are exactly the sort of player I want to see develop at Everton: young and stylish – and I’m sure there are more (like Ramsey and Patterson, who we’ve been linked with).

Realistically, we may also need to copy Nordsjaelland – and look to Africa also where the depth of talent (and hunger to succeed) is now incredible.

There will be some who say this isn’t possible for a variety of reasons. And doubtless there will be a lost list of reasons why this will be a difficult path to take. Liverpool is different to Amsterdam; the Premier League is a harder league than Serie A; etc etc.

However, unless we find a way to make it possible (as other clubs with much smaller resources than us have done), then we’re going to continue living in the past. There are, after all, now 7 richer clubs than us in the Premier League.

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Reader Comments (89)

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Paul Hewitt
1 Posted 14/11/2021 at 18:46:19
Getting proper coaches may help.
Steve Carse
2 Posted 14/11/2021 at 19:18:17
A brief think produces three other names that would fit your criterion of Everton "academy graduates still in or around the first team at Premier League level" -- Jonjoe Kenny, Kieran Dowell, and Adam Forshaw. In terms of improving our output, it might just help if we won a trophy or two to attract more local talent to Finch Farm rather than Kirkby.
Steve Carse
3 Posted 14/11/2021 at 19:20:32
Just thought of another – Shane Duffy.
Alex Kociuba
4 Posted 14/11/2021 at 19:42:19
Chelsea: you can add Declan Rice and Solanke (also Nketiah was at Chelsea before Arsenal).

City: Trippier

Good article, but by " excluding players like Sterling, Sancho, Dier and others who were really someone else's academy players before being pinched.", it seems at odds suggesting "scouting effectively internationally" as part of the solution; unless the scouts are wandering around parks they'll more than likely be scouting at established clubs.

I think it might be equally interesting to actually look at all the players taken from other clubs' academies. Chelsea, for instance, their academy players (https://www.transfermarkt.com/fc-chelsea/jugendarbeit/verein/631) [sort the list by value], there are 20+ players that have been in their academy since 1995 that are over £10M in value.

Barry Hesketh
5 Posted 14/11/2021 at 19:48:23
Geographically, Everton is surrounded by three of the richest clubs in the country all of whom traditionally have a pathway for young players. Add to that, the other rich and not-so-rich clubs In England and around Europe, who are vying for youngsters so it is debatable whether Everton can do more than it is doing. There's always room for improvement in this and other areas, but there is a limited supply of talented players and a high demand for their services.

As for coaching, well we could have the very best coaches on the planet but if they don't have the very best young players to coach, they'll be wasting their own talents.

Barry Rathbone
6 Posted 14/11/2021 at 20:42:08
Out of the list above I only see Foden as a player.

What about Kane? Muttered the incredulous throng.

He HAS BEEN effective in a direct way but always lacked stamina one reason why he's finished now - he needs Albania in the Premier League.

My point is footy has produced an increasingly "samey" group of players for a while and those listed wouldn't make much difference here.

It is a great opportunity in some respects because any manager with a bit about him can grab a handful of players from anywhere and potentially mold champions out of them given such a level playing field.

Won't happen here with our penchant for crocks but I expect someone from beyond the chosen few to do it in the near future.

Tony Abrahams
7 Posted 14/11/2021 at 20:44:23
I’m the best coach in the world because I’m being given the best young players in the world to work with and it’s a good job, because otherwise I’d just be wasting my talent!. No innovation whatsoever.
Peter Neilson
8 Posted 14/11/2021 at 20:47:01
Interesting how another club is dealing with this, Brentford has moved away from an academy to their B Team model. Extreme but currently successful for them.

Brentford's five-year journey from academy closure heartbreak to the Premier League

Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
9 Posted 14/11/2021 at 20:48:55
Sorry, Robert,

You said that some of the Premier League players were shown in bold font to signify they had moved on? The bold font didn't come through I'm afraid, so I suppressed the note.

If you want to send me a list, I can suitably embolden them and reinstate the note.

Once again, apologies that our submission system stripped out that formatting.

Paul Hewitt
10 Posted 14/11/2021 at 21:56:18
Why don't we just buy a foreign lower league team and send our youth players there? Get rid of the Under-23s.
Robert Tressell
11 Posted 14/11/2021 at 22:13:08
Paul your suggestions at comments 1 and 10 might well be the most constructive to come out of this thread.

I've (half) joked that we should buy Dundee and send Dunc back there to manage them – with a bunch of our Under-21 players and a handful of foreign prospects. There are worse ideas.

Whatever the case, we certainly can do more than we've been doing Barry H #5.

In particular we certainly should be capable of innovating, although there's been no sign of this in my memory as a post-Cottee era supporter.

Michael Kenrick
12 Posted 14/11/2021 at 22:17:58
Interesting stuff on Brentford, Peter @8. Thanks for the link.

I tried to interpret the Brentford 'experiment' in our context but there seem to be too many differences for us to learn much from this radical decision:

1) For Brentford, it was about financial efficiency in terms of getting into the Premier League. We're already there.

3) They couldn't justify their Academy in terms of cost. We can show a pretty healthy return from ours in terms of player value.

2) The cost of Brentford's Academy was quoted at £2M per year. I haven't seen any breakdown in Everton's Accounts, but even if it was £3M or more, I still think we are showing a profit.

4) Closing the Academy does not automatically bring a reversal of the key performance indicators we are concerned about: Recruiting better players, bringing players through to the first team, or selling them on for decent fees.

Does the Brentford B-team play any games? I'm not seeing them listed at Youthhawk.co.uk since they closed the academy. If they don't actually play any competitive games, then they are not a real B-team... and more importantly, those 18 players they retained ain't getting no matchday development.

John Raftery
13 Posted 14/11/2021 at 23:00:46
For players to have a successful career at a top club, they must be of international standard. If academy players are not playing for their country's age group teams, their prospects of making the grade as first-team regulars are remote. Even if selected for age group international teams, there is no guarantee they will meet the demands of the top clubs.

Producing international class players is a huge challenge for any academy – especially when faced with competition on their doorstep from three of the richest clubs in the world. The Atalanta example in northern Italy is interesting. From what I have read, they have invested heavily in their academy over many years. But there is a problem.

Atalanta has suffered three relegations since the turn of the century. No established Premier League club will countenance that scenario, least of all one aiming to build a new stadium. I fear we are destined to continue with our "make do and mend" approach, hoping that the academy will occasionally come up with an exceptional talent about whom there are no doubts. A conveyor belt of the required talent is highly unlikely.

Alan J Thompson
14 Posted 15/11/2021 at 03:22:04
And if you go back even further, Burnley and West Brom were looked at as good finishing schools which in itself attracted talent, but I suppose that was almost before the days of Champions League and indeed televised football.

Swings and Roundabouts – or the trade in youngsters is now international? I know of Australian and American youngsters at Everton and haven't we had Polish, Portuguese and several other nationalities among the junior keepers?

The days of scouting only British schoolboy representative teams seems to be a thing of the past. Does anyone still play at Penny Lane?

Danny O’Neill
15 Posted 15/11/2021 at 05:11:04
Robert, a fantastic article and post. I've been travelling all day so will delay my right to reply until I wake up in the morning (which is Texas time for the next 10 days).

Schalke is an interesting model. In my view, they went too far down the path of using the academy as a cash cow, which caught them out eventually. You could write a first-team 11 of top (really top) drawer players they produced.

It's a balance, right? Good signings balanced with bringing through some good kids from the academy. That's how I see it.

Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 15/11/2021 at 05:14:27
I'll come back more on this excellent post, Robert. Just excuse me for being jet-lagged.

Back for Brentford and the derby and planning to go and watch the Konigsblauen (Royal Blues) against Paderborn in February.

Mike Gaynes
17 Posted 15/11/2021 at 06:29:51
Great article, Robert. Your research is impressive. Clearly you need more in your life to keep you occupied! ;-))

However, you missed one at PSG... new USA star Tim Weah, son of George, came through there before briefly reaching (and failing to stick in) the first team. He is now at Lille.

I agree with you on scouting Africa for hungry young talent, but I think you reckon without the cost... it would be expensive and logistically difficult for an English club. The Latino youth leagues of the US might be a more cost-effective resource if combined with working arrangements with extensive MLS academy operations like FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union.

Peter #8 and John #13, interesting posts from a differing perspective on academies.

Gary Smith
18 Posted 15/11/2021 at 07:49:07
Posts like Barry @5 and John @13 are frustrating, to say the least…effectively: ”It's all too hard, why bother trying, let's just be plucky Everton and accept the shadow of our big boy neighbours.”

The very antithesis of the awesome original post that looks at an area that could genuinely make a difference to our prospects over the next decade.

Personally, I would rather we had a go and failed badly, than accept the mid- to low-table stagnation some on here seem to crave.

For me, youth progression must too be embedded into the entire ethos of the club (Ajax, like in the article, albeit with 4-5 ‘statesmen' always in the team to help). If the best young players think they will play here, they will come here and/or stay here.

It's got to start and end with first team changes (not just academy). As the post states “no more shockers like Rondon and Martina” because all they do is block opportunities for youngsters. Especially with safety-first managers like Rafa.

Also means we have to accept a selling mentality too. Lukaku came here knowing it would be a springboard move. We profited massively from it too. A win-win. We need to do it more, and – again – players will come because we offer them a big jump.

Love Digne (especially the one who took Leightons spot), but if we'd have sold for £30m in the summer and had Nkounkou and Small competing for 1st team spot, the latter would have stayed and our FFP position would have improved. Not entirely sure that would have been any worse than off form Digne vs The tea lady this year.

Not all will leave (or be wanted elsewhere), and with most giving us 3-4 years at least, how's that any different to the Delph's and Townsends? Well, apart from buying low and selling high of course.

Other than another £500M injection (not happening as doors close on Newcastle), I can't see any other option than this model or perpetual mediocrity. Have a go, or give in.

Time to rebrand: not School of Science – we are the School of Opportunity.

Tony Abrahams
19 Posted 15/11/2021 at 09:10:17
I honestly think what Brentford did was very logical, and although there will be legitimate counter arguments, I personally don't think academies are being run in the correct manner.

Michael K, I'd love to know the figures, but I reckon Everton will be spending at least double what you quote each season, and this will only be money that can be seen through the books imo.

I've said it before but I'd guess that most clubs would change the system if they could, but maybe I'm totally wrong, and I've just become very anti-academy because I've just got very little vision.

It is all about vision imo though, and that's why I think Robert is writing this piece, because deep down he knows we could be doing a lot better, even if football is one of the hardest sports in the world, when it comes to making it towards the very top.

Innovation is key, what Brands has started to restructure makes a lot of sense, but I bet you the likes of Chelsea and Man Utd, have been operating like this for years.

Peter Neilson
20 Posted 15/11/2021 at 09:20:02
Michael,

Brentford B play in the Community Education Football Alliance League. We have our own teams in the North West leagues. I think it's youth level 17-21 which goes along with Brentford scrapping their academy and only recruiting age 16+.

I agree their position is different to ours but it does demonstrate a successful different approach. There is a clear pathway from the B team straight to the first team. Using this model and targeting undervalued players using mathematical and statistical modelling has allowed them to recruit wisely over the past 5 years and allowed them to consistently buy and sell at a significant profit.

Maybe Moshiri or Brands should have a chat with Matthew Benham a week on Sunday, even if it's just about buying wisely.

Brian Harrison
21 Posted 15/11/2021 at 09:50:00
I think over the years there have been many arguments over having an academy or not. Going back to when Kevin Keegan was manager of Newcastle and scrapped the academy system, and indeed Colin Harvey when manager of Everton cut some of our academy teams which was as much to do with money than anything else.

The argument for academies is that, if you can produce a couple of players who become regular first-teamers then that's two players you don't have to buy into the club at x million pounds. But the counter argument is, if you only produce 2 first team regulars over a 5-year period, let's say, then given the cost of employing coaches and physios for all the academy teams plus the wages of the players in the academy who are earning money, is that a good return on the money spent?

Certainly Chelsea have turned their academy into probably the most profitable academy in the whole Premier League, they constantly loan players out and in a lot of cases those loans become permanent deals for players they deem not good enough for their first team.

I think they have reached a new high this week on having Gallagher, who is on loan at Palace, called up into the full England squad. My memory might be letting me down and, if I am wrong, I am sure somebody will come on and correct me, but I can't remember another player being picked for England while out on loan.

Manchester United have, since Matt Busby, always produced young players from their academies for the first team, probably they have produced more top flight players from their academy than any other club.

But is it better to have your own academy or not? I don't know the answer, and I think each club has to see if they are value for money.

Ian Horan
22 Posted 15/11/2021 at 10:06:56
When Brentford folded their academy, there was uproar... but fair play to their chairman at the time, he was interviewed and he gave a clear rationale. It was along the lines of, we have too many top Premier League academies in London to compete and, when we do get a gem, the top academies take them from us.

He then went on to say they decided to reverse the trend and will focus in mopping up those released from the Premier League academies, especially those around London. To me it seemed a good business decision.

Robert Tressell
23 Posted 15/11/2021 at 10:29:45
Tony @19, you're right about the motive for the article. I can accept that we don't have the financial clout of others – but I find it hard to accept the lack of any innovation within the club to address this. We have just plodded along for the last 30 years.

Brentford, Nordsjaelland and Atalanta are unfashionable clubs compared to us and with modest budgets in comparison. Yet they've all had a vision which might allow them to compete and they have implemented accordingly.

Mike's point about a US tie-up is a good one. The volume of quality age U21 players coming out of The States now is unprecedented. Others will surely capitalise if we don't.

I'd certainly be happy to see the likes of Dike and Pepi brought in to compete for the striker role. And the MLS might be a really good place for someone like, say, Onyango to develop as a footballer.

Danny O’Neill
24 Posted 15/11/2021 at 12:45:20
Some great posts on a great article about a subject we all care about. Most regulars know my thoughts on B Teams and Satellite Clubs, so I won't go there. Many different models and it would need a restructuring of the game to implement.

The Brentford comments are particularly interesting. Several years ago, some of their "academy" teams trained on the same unkempt pitches my Hayes & Yeading team trained and played on. As many have said, it looks like they had a vision and a strategy that they believed would benefit them in achieving their aims and objectives over years. Not just beating QPR next week.

I like the reference about not recruiting until 16+. I said a few weeks ago, we shouldn't be taking these kids on until 14 years old. Leave them in their natural environments. By all means track them, adopt local clubs as satellites, even go along and help out with the training once a week. Invest in local clubs to give them better facilities. A different way of spending academy funding. But let them enjoy their football and play, not enclose them in the elite academy bubble and face the pressures of chasing the dream that will most likely never come for most, so they just miss out on a normal life. I'm sure Brentford are still doing this but don't take them on until a certain point. I wonder if their restructuring had anything to do with the Danish influence? Don't know, hence the question mark.

I have to get it in here given the nature of the post. Fix the grass roots system that feeds the academies. To repeat myself from above, maybe a different way of thinking in how clubs can invest in grass roots that will improve what eventually enters the academies?

Steavey Buckley
25 Posted 15/11/2021 at 12:46:47
The academies don't get enough competitive football alongside more experienced players from the 1st team. But when there was a reserve team league that played in the Central League, there was a natural progression from the youth teams to the reserve team with other first-team squad players to gain experience from. The Everton 1st team squad that that won league in 1969-70 was filled with players that came from the reserve team.

Peter Neilson
26 Posted 15/11/2021 at 13:36:23
Danny, regarding the Midtjylland link to Brentford, what they do have in common is the use of analytics to identify players. This is what cost Mark Warburton and our own David Weir their jobs at Brentford as they didn't fully support it.

However Midtjylland not only still have an academy but have named 16 academy players in their Europa squad. There are plenty of articles on Matthew Benham out there and they make interesting reading on an owner with a different approach.

Brian Wilkinson
27 Posted 16/11/2021 at 17:37:12
The players at Finch Farm get plenty of feel for the first team, sad but true, that normally means running up and down the touchline for a few warm-ups, soaking up the atmosphere, and if lucky, they get 5 minutes off the bench.

For whatever reason, apart from Gordon lately, none of the past managers, seem to want to take a risk on the youngsters; they would rather keep playing players out of form, in the hope they will have at least a decent half-game.

Seems some supporters have the same mentality in saying the players are not ready; that could well be the case when you rest players for a cup game and put youngsters in with players not regulars with the first team.

These youngsters need to be given a chance with as close as possible strong 11, throw in two youngsters at most at a time, let them get experience with playing alongside regular first-team players.

Four minutes here and there, is no good for the youngsters, even more soul destroying when you have two young strikers on the bench, watching Rondon plod around the pitch, then the likes of Holgate or Davies come on when we need a goal, instead of a striker.

Danny O’Neill
28 Posted 16/11/2021 at 20:09:52
I don't know if it's not ready yet or not yet good enough Brian.

You're right though. 4 or 5 minutes helps noone. Not the player and not the coach to assess the above, if deemed good enough to be put on the pitch. Sometimes the coaches hand has to get forced by the situation. Some coaches are more cautious (a lot of the ones we've had), others more willing. But I think it always comes down to the individual coaches assessment of the talent at their disposal.

It's taken a few years development and maybe (coincidentally?) a new manager to give him a more serious run out. Maybe a bit of circumstance thrown in with our current plight, but these are the factors that give players their chances and so far Gordan has taken it pretty well.

Hopefully we will see Simms feature as we need someone up there, because since Calvert-Lewin got injured, we may as welll have played with no-one. Watch Rondon get a brace on Sunday now.

Darren Hind
29 Posted 17/11/2021 at 04:30:33
We need to attract better players.

Unsworth has taken the Under-23s to title-winning success with players who have simply not been good enough. He has done it against five or six clubs who simply have better players than us.

All this means is he has had players not good enough to break into the big time. The best he can do is make the sum of his parts greater than the sum of his peers.

99% of the players who won success in the minor league did not and will not taste success again. It will be the highlight of their careers.

Unsworth, like everyone who ever coached youngsters couldn't put in a talent which wasn't there in the first place. He could only show them how to play, fight, survive and win as a unit. But, at the end of the day, they were still not good enough as individuals.

It's no good putting up figures to show how many players Chelsea and Man Utd have produced. The better youngsters will always go to the clubs who dangle the sweetest looking carrot.

The feeder club is also a non-runner in this country. Well over 100 professional clubs have played professional football in this country for well over 100 years; those who have dabbled have failed.

Give it a little thought and the reasons for the failure become obvious. Football is cyclical. Every generation is different. It may be Chelsea and Man Utd producing the most Premier League players now, but it wasn't 5 years ago... and it is unlikely to be in 5 years time.

Whilst there will always be an element of luck involved in who shows up at your academy gates, the clubs who put the most into their academy are generally the ones who get the most out.

If you are not prepared to make a serious effort to attract the elite, you shouldn't be surprised when you become a permanent part of the peloton.

Peter Warren
30 Posted 17/11/2021 at 07:27:35
We have some average players in the U23s but some of them should be at least sharing time against the average players in our first team.

If you actually commit to play youngsters, I believe that will improve both them and attract better quality.

Germany has attracted young English talent owing to fact they play (Lookman, Sancho and Bellingham). We should offer a route to the first team but we don't.

Tony Abrahams
31 Posted 17/11/2021 at 08:32:49
Some good points, Darren, but do you ever get the feeling that the players coming through at Everton even like the ball?

Genuine question because, whenever I watch, it's like the players don't really know how to express themselves or enjoy having the ball at their feet. It makes me feel that Everton are definitely falling down somewhere in the production line, because that's exactly what it's supposed to be, unfortunately, and it's why I think academies should be scrapped until the children go into senior school at the earliest.

Robert Tressell
32 Posted 17/11/2021 at 09:04:21
Tony I agree. There are players with ability in our youth set-up but there is no style to our play. Much of it resembles lower division football – bolted on to nerve-racking and uncomfortable playing out from the back.

There's no structure to moving the ball up the pitch past opposition blocks. It all relies on players having natural talent or, more often, superior physical attributes like pace, height or engine.

Whilst Darren is right that talent production lines are a bit cyclical, we seem to just be waiting patiently for quality to materialise instead of engineering it.

And if you look at clubs like Lyon, Ajax, Schalke, Bilbao etc their production lines ebb and flow a bit but they are consistent in producing quality. That does not happen by chance.

Brian Harrison
33 Posted 17/11/2021 at 09:48:32
While I agree that David Unsworth can only work with what he is given, it was obvious that our U23 sides were winning the league with much older players than the other clubs.

I don't know who in the last couple of years has now changed that philosophy and now we have reduced the average age of our U23 side quite considerably. This allows younger players to develop much quicker by playing at a higher standard much quicker, and even though I accept this might hamper us winning U23 leagues, it will help the progression of our younger players.

We have seen over the last 18 months more youngsters being selected for the first-team squad, which can only be good in the long term. I realize it's easy to select a youngster to sit on the bench with no chance of ever being called upon. But I do think with the changes that have been made we will get more youngsters on the pitch in games and not just making up the numbers.

I know Darren made the point about clubs producing the best youngsters is very often a cyclical thing, that maybe very true for most clubs but it's in the DNA of Man Utd to produce young players going back to Matt Busby's time and even now, in troubled times at Man Utd, they still produce youngsters for their first team.

I also think, when Chelsea appointed Frank Arnesson as their academy coach, he changed the philosophy at Chelsea. I agree that the most successful Premier League clubs will always attract the best youngsters.

I suppose the one club that really hasn't produced many youngsters in the last 10 years is Man City, which is very disappointing given their success and their manager is rated the best coach in the world and to have produced so few to come through their academy in Guardiola's time at City must be a concern.

Robert Tressell
34 Posted 17/11/2021 at 10:35:40
Brian, it was Brands who implemented the restructure so that younger talented players get fast-tracked.

Also, Man City now have a very good academy. It will take a few years but they have a good bunch coming through with a lad called McAtee looking like another Foden.

Tony Abrahams
35 Posted 17/11/2021 at 11:17:37
I was very fortunate to go to Man Utd on four day trials a couple of times Brian, when I was 13 and 14, and remember saying to the scout, Joe Armstrong, that the standard at those trials was so much higher than when I was playing for Liverpool Schoolboys.

He said Man Utd were very, very careful in their selection, and I remember talking or rather just listening to another scout, whilst waiting for a lift after training, and the list of names that he was reeling off, of kids who had come through the system at Manchester United was really impressive, making me think I wanted to sign for a club like that.

The thing that impresses me most about United, and now also Chelsea, is the way the kids seem to be coached. They are all comfortable on the ball, and many of them also seem to have that little bit of panache, which makes me feel that they are also being taught how to express themselves.

Dave Abrahams
36 Posted 17/11/2021 at 11:35:55
Tony (35),

Man Utd have always been a magnet for young kids, the best kids wanted to play for them. Every club in the country were after Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards back in the day, but both young lads wanted to sign for Man Utd.

Bobby Charlton was warned not to go there because they were a Catholic club, all managers after the Second World War were Catholics. A Scouser, Ron Atkinson, was the first non-Catholic to manage them after the war.

It didn't put Charlton off and loads of young lads since have wanted to join them, including a big majority of lads from Manchester or nearby, Ryan Giggs even left Man City for United.

When Wayne Rooney came back to Everton, far too late, he couldn't believe the standards of professionalism between the two clubs, a vast difference. Only in John Moore's time were Everton run like a top class club, even more so today, that's why Everton are lucky if they get top kids from outside the area to agree to join them.

Whitaker is one, from Leeds, looks a decent player; Warrington looks very promising, I think he is a local lad; but there are a few coming through now who have good potential so maybe the tide is turning.

Danny O’Neill
37 Posted 17/11/2021 at 11:36:50
I'm personally not a fan of the elite academies or the U23s, but if we're going to have them, then I'm not going to measure it on winning the U23s league. It's about the quantity and quality of the players produced for the club.

I'm a well documented fan of the feeder club concept (would rather have B Team, but that's not happening). It's kind of a glorified loan system, but it's putting our younger players and reserves in old school speak into one club, playing with each other, not scattering them across the country. The key difference between this and the old Central League is they would be playing in the actual football league, FA Cup and League Cup etc.

It could also help out the "adopted" club. I agree, again, that it would mean overhaul of the league system, which could impact a lot of clubs, depending on the structure adopted. But I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing because a lot of the lower league clubs struggle to survive on a continuous basis anyway. It could save the next Bury. I'm more for total restructure and reduction of national leagues myself, but having covered that previously, I won't repeat in detail and it won't happen.

Tony, Robert; possibly because the focus has been trying to win the league against better players and teams that Darren calls? Rather than screw this meaningless league and focus on coaching and developing the players? I'd also add what I've said before; playing the same system as the first team. Once we figure out what system they're supposed to be playing!!

It is cyclic and as mentioned, Brands is restructuring. Maybe our cycle is coming, when change is made, results don't happen immediately.

Danny O’Neill
38 Posted 17/11/2021 at 11:58:06
Warrington is from Birkenhead, I believe, Dave.

Tony – he joined Everton at 6!! To your point about senior school age. I said elsewhere 14 should be the entrance level.

Tony Abrahams
39 Posted 17/11/2021 at 12:19:50
Probably why they didn't want me, Dave, because I think I might have even picked them over Everton, even though I unfortunately never got the choice of either club.
Darren Hind
40 Posted 17/11/2021 at 18:53:30
I'm not sure Man Utd have always been a magnet for young kids, Dave.

I don't think anybody could argue that they have had their fair share down the years, but they have had their fair share of deserts as well as rivers.

After Busby, they went a couple of decades without producing much at all. Even when they did eventually produce their "Golden Generation", I would say only Scholes and Giggs were out of the very top drawer. The others were good players who became part of a blend which included world class players like Cantona, Keane, Schmeichel... I think the players brought in had an enormous effect on the players they brought through. Ferguson didn't half have his head screwed on.

I remember in the late eighties Scousers would really taunt the Mancs with comments like "Mancs can't play footie. You`d have to drag Mike Summerbee out of retirement to make a decent 5-side team".

I can't accept Unsworth won the Premier League 2 playing older players than his rivals... they were all at it. Although I do agree with Tony A about the mechanical nature of the players we brought through. They seemed more interested in doing a job than wanting to get on the ball.

That is my gripe with most English players – they are coached to do a job. Not get on the ball and play.

Dave Abrahams
41 Posted 17/11/2021 at 19:38:51
Darren (40),

Yes there was a drought after Matt Busby went but there was still plenty of players who came through, maybe not outstanding like Giggs and Scholes.

Norman Whiteside, only for injuries, would have been up there with them, and the Irish centre-half who liked a bevvie, was another.

In the present team, you have Rashford, Greenwood, McTominay and the reserve goalie who would get them a load of cash if they were sold. But I have to agree with a lot you have said.

Don Alexander
42 Posted 17/11/2021 at 19:47:14
Interesting to see one of us forgiving Unsworth for "mechanical football" amid the youths he's coached for years, hardly any of them going on to achieve anything notable, anywhere, whilst constantly and instantly berating first team managers for mechanical football from players almost all signed by their predecessors. Double standards perhaps?

One day he might realise what so many of us fellow fans realise when it comes to the Finch Farm production line, namely that it's disappointing, recurringly, at best.

Tony Abrahams
43 Posted 17/11/2021 at 20:07:46
If you’re getting taught mechanical football, between the age of 11-16, then I think it’s hard to suddenly change, and that’s why I personally think it’s the whole bigger picture that needs looking at.
Danny O’Neill
44 Posted 17/11/2021 at 22:50:08
And for me, Tony, that bigger picture means this sort of 'football first' mentality filtering down in how we coach and prepare kids in the local football networks that feed the academies.

If we get that right, better quality footballers, and more of them, are entering at 11 (for you) or 14 (for me), so the academies have a better start point.

Peter Warren
45 Posted 17/11/2021 at 23:00:07
Speaking about youngsters – I listened to a refreshing and honest podcast with Billy Kenny. Shows how much he wanted to be at Everton and what it took.
Jim Lloyd
46 Posted 17/11/2021 at 23:31:31
On the subject of coaching, it seems now that most Premier League clubs want to create athletes, but not necessarily footballers.

I look at all the great players that have been mentioned in these posts, and many more. We, however, don't see too many what I call "good footballers" ever coming through.

I remember John O'Leary, who was a smashing amateur footballer in Liverpool and Kirkby, going down to Spurs, as they wanted to take him on. John said he had some coach trying to tell him how to pass the ball. He told the coach to fuck off, as he played football, not passing by numbers. Jack Charlton wrote about him and called him Mister Magic of Merseyside.

Darren Hind
47 Posted 18/11/2021 at 01:17:12
Agreed, Tony And Dave.

I thought it was a decent discussion until the Finch Farm Fact-Finding idiot showed up, spouting his usual ill-informed bile against anyone who happens to be an Evertonian.

You are right about the age group where the real damage is done, Tony. Most 11- to 16-year-olds in this country are coached by people who will show them the mechanics of the game. 99% of players coming through our system have a pretty good idea of how to play without the ball, but so many of them look far from comfortable with it, certainly compared to their European counterparts. It is improving, but we still have a long way to go.

It goes back to the discussion last week: the overwhelming majority of players in the Premier League and the Championship are better without the ball than they are with it. This is what coaches are preparing these boys for.

I also agree with you that it is almost impossible to reverse a decade of coaching when you have received that coaching at such an impressionable age.

I'm guessing there are about a thousand English players on the books of Premier League and Championship teams. Yeah, we have ball players like Jack Grealish, but they are the exception. Not the rule.

As for the claim that our academy doesn't produce players for the first team... well, it's easy to put up stats of players who have played the occasional game for other clubs, but I will make a point of looking at every Premier League squad this weekend. Let's see how many teams will get more homegrown players on the pitch than we do.

Jerome Shields
49 Posted 18/11/2021 at 03:56:48
Academy staff:

Chief Operating Officer: Joel Waldron

Director of Academy: David Unsworth

Head of Coaching: Sean Lundon

Professional Development Coach: Leighton Baines

Lead Coaches: Paul Bennett, Tom Kearney, Paul Tait

Coaching Team: Peter Cavanagh, Phil Jevons, Colin Littlejohns, John Miles, Kevin O'Brien, Joe Peterson, Scott Phelan, Tom Gardner, Andy Cowley, Ross Morrison

Sports Science & Medicine: John McKeown, Peter Beirne, Lewis Charnock, Nick Coleman, Jack Dowling, Dan Carney, Josh Jeffery, Matthew Lowe, Leah McCready

Recruitment: Sam Bailey, Michael Cribley, Paul Johnson, Darren Kearns, Ian Lavery, Ray Redmond, Nicola Woods.

Education & Welfare: Chris Adamson, Phil McQuaid, Darren Murphy

Operations: Daniel Manning, Sean Farrington, Vincent Fieldstead, Rob How, John King, Daniel Manning, Danny Webb, Sean McClure, Keith Loyden

Analytics and Strategic Planning: Owen O'Connor

Joel Waldron, at 28 years of age, is the youngest in such a position in a Professional Academy in the Premier League. He is the son of Martin Waldron who was sacked as Head of the Academy after Everton received a fine for his tapping of a Cardiff youth footballer. Joel was formerly made Director of the Academy in 2018, having previously held other roles at the Academy, but was replaced by David Unsworth in 2020, who is still Under 23 Manager. Joel became Chief Operating Officer.

Leighton Baines is in a role of Professional Development Coach, found for him by Marcel Brands after his retirement from his playing career, according to the Everton Chief Executive. Joel Waldron, it was reported in October, is to become Head of Academy Recruitment.

The Academy just reaks of being unprofessional and the performance of the Academy is not surprising, IMO.

Apparently changes at the Academy reference younger development have been Brands's initiatives. Brands also is publically attributed as promoter of Unsworth to the Director of the Academy position.

Recent reports have stated that Unsworth rather than Brands should be responsible for the underperformance of the Academy, but where does Joel Waldron, Chief Operating Officer, said to be responsible for 55 staff on the Official Everton website, come in?

Danny O’Neill
50 Posted 18/11/2021 at 04:26:45
Thanks for that Jerome, very informative when presented in black and white.

Just to call out something that relates in a kind of way to Paul the Esk's recent posts. Governance and structure that strives to effectively deliver the operation. But here, focussed on Finch Farm specifically, not in the broader sense of the club.

I'm not too concerned with the structure if I look at that from COO down to Lead Coaches. It looks okay, in the sense that:

COO. Runs the overall operation and sets the strategy based on the direction given by the club.

Director of the Academy. Oversees delivery of the objectives set by the COO based on that direction. Across all of the academy teams.

Head of Coaching. Implements the coaching policy to achieve the objectives set by the Director. Oversees all the team coaches to ensure this happens to the standards required without interfering in the dugout on matchday. Across all of the academy teams.

Lead coaches. Appointed to run the various individual age group teams on a day-to-day basis. Delivers the necessary coaching with their group to achieve all of the above.

Take names out of it. Why is our Director of Academy in the U23s dugout performing a Lead Coach role 2 rungs down the ladder from where his focus should be and what he is being paid to do? Who is directing the overall academy to deliver on the objectives? Across all academy teams.

From what you posted, we actually have a decent structure and operating model in place on paper. There is just no governance in place to implement it properly. If I'm looking at that, I'm actually looking at the COO for allowing the Director to not actually be a Director and do what he's paid to do. He's doing what he wants to do from an outsider's perspective.

Forget wanting to manage a club. Unsworth (names back in the mix) seems to want the title but still wants to be a Lead / Head Coach. Fine, then he shouldn't have taken the promotion and likely pay rise. Demote to the level he wants to be at and get someone in who wants the job.

If I was in Joel Waldron's position, that's what I'd be saying and questioning. And if I was Brands, I'd be questioning Waldron.

Robert Tressell
52 Posted 18/11/2021 at 07:18:30
I thought Joel Waldron was the guy we let go because of the illegal tapping up young players? Must be thinking of someone else.

Otherwise, illuminating comments. There is certainly an impression I get that the focus is physicality and playing without the ball – and maybe even a belief that playing with the ball comes from freedom to do just that, rather than coaching.

I would say that might be a uniquely British perspective on coaching. Doubt the Dutch or Spaniards would agree – with their coaching about space, passing drills and passing triangles being all about that.

Mike Gaynes
53 Posted 18/11/2021 at 07:26:02
Robert, you're thinking of Martin Waldron, Head of Academy Recruitment at the time he got caught tapping up and was exiled. Joel is his son.
David Pearl
54 Posted 18/11/2021 at 08:04:09
I think, simply put, that we could benefit by more diversity in the coaches.

Young kids can be taught how to pass a ball, how to spin or direct it. Not many of our first team can do that.

Robert Tressell
55 Posted 18/11/2021 at 09:27:17
Thanks Mike. Wonder how Joel got that job?
Dave Abrahams
56 Posted 18/11/2021 at 09:28:58
Robert (52),

Joel Waldron took over from Chris Perkins who was recruited from Derby County with a very good reputation.

He only stayed for eighteen months before going to Spurs to join their Academy. I don't know if he got a good offer from Spurs or if there was another reason he left.

Jerome Shields
57 Posted 18/11/2021 at 09:44:58
Danny #50

Thank you for putting some bones on the Titles Sounds about right, but it does throw up the Unsworth conundrum as you have correctly pointed out.

Joel Waldron was for 7 years the Academy Co-Ordinator before he became Director of the Academy after his Dad left. I can't confirm, but he appears to be Head of Academy Recruitment now.

There are plenty of staff and managers, but it is hard to see the structure and suitable line management that is going to produce a first-team player. What's more, where does Brands fit in and where would the performance targets and accountablity be?

Looks to fit into the "Empire within Empire" theory.

Robert #52

Martin Waldron was the Waldron that was sacked, the dear old Dad of Joel.

Jerome Shields
59 Posted 18/11/2021 at 10:46:14
Danny #50,

I reread your post properly this time. You come to similar conclusions as myself, but have expressed them better. That's the conundrum at Everton on the football side, right across the board at Everton: sophisticated and great looking structures and titles, but there appears to be no accountability or performance targets.

They all have their way of doing things, which may not be in line with the actual first-team manager's objectives. As a matter of fact, some could be accused about being more interested in their own careers than that of their charges. Cronyism and Nepotism appear not too far from the surface either, to an outsider observer like myself.

I wonder how the Academy stands in relation to Benitez's 5-10% improvement across all department? But didn't some do well with promotions if their performance has come up in a review as being below what is required?

If this is the state of the Academy, it is bound to have a knock-on effect on the performance of young footballers who they are in charge of.

Gerard McKean
60 Posted 18/11/2021 at 12:22:49
Very interesting and informative article, thank you, Robert, and some excellent posts.

I'll leave the discussions about coaching and mechanics to the many who know more about them than I do and I'll just add one or two observations in areas I'm more comfortable.

The first thing that screams out at me is the unashamed nepotism endemic at our football club. Scroll through the names and job titles at Finch Farm and you cannot help but conclude that it's a "jobs for the boys" culture. I've written at length about this previously, describing it as a silo structure whereby, once you are in, you can pretty well do what you like so long as you pay due homage to the people above you in your particular silo.

My second observation is around a complicated issue: what Robert describes as "offering more than just a football education". While at Everton, I submitted three reports or sets of recommendations to Barrett-Baxendale. Two were unsolicited: one I mentioned recently about inviting some brilliantly qualified Evertonians capable of independent and innovative thought onto the Board; another was a strategy for developing a career pathway for young people wanting to work at Everton, an apprenticeship if you like. Both of these were ignored.

The third report was actually commissioned by the CEO, and then ignored. She had asked me to help set up the Everton School, a task that consumed 18 months of my life, and towards the end of that time, she asked me to take a look at the Academy education programme. I reported back that, despite the best efforts of some well-intentioned people, there was massive room for improvement.

I asked questions, such as: What is being done to prepare these youngsters for life outside of football? Is there a case for creating a bespoke curriculum for them, one that puts as much emphasis on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) as their IQ?

Also, what I meant by "bespoke" was, just by way of example, using science lessons to reinforce the importance and meaning of healthy eating; using Maths lessons to teach finance and investment; German, Spanish and other language lessons to open young minds to other options in career and life; Personal and Social Education to teach about the downside as well as the benefits of social media. You get the drift.

The point being, however, that none of this was possible under the hybrid system of having the youngsters attend a mainstream school for part of the day and then being supervised to do catch-up or homework for lessons they had missed through training at Finch Farm.

My own observation was that I would not have allowed my own sons to be educated in this way and that a modern academy should invest in its own teachers. Knowing what I know about how the Everton School began, I would take the job of recruitment well away from the 'I scratch your back, you scratch my back' brigade. It's that fundamental need to change the whole ethos and culture again.

Something told me though that things were not going to change any time soon at Finch Farm when, just after I had made my report back on education, I asked permission to use a classroom at Finch Farm. I had been training a new batch of ground stewards and I needed an appropriate space to administer their final exam. I also felt that going to Finch Farm would be good for them and make them feel more part of the Everton "family". So we got everything underway and suddenly the door bursts open and some bloke is shouting "Who said you could use this room? All of you out now!"

I explained what was happening and asked him politely to leave and go check it out with the CEO. After listening to him tell us in no uncertain terms that he's in charge here and nothing should happen without being run past him first and blah blah blah, one of the would-be stewards stood up and invited him to take the easy exit from the room because the harder route would be rather painful for him. He left. I made a mental note to station that steward somewhere where his gifts could be useful.

Of course I reported the incident to our esteemed CEO. Her reply; "Oh that's just ... , that's the way he is."

Andrew Keatley
61 Posted 18/11/2021 at 13:16:08
I think the successful coaching of young footballers is incredibly difficult. Coaches are trying to marry a club coaching philosophy with being competitive in games, all the while having to move young players through in annual cycles which often means that continuity is sacrificed in favour of keeping the conveyor belt moving.

It's a production line, and if isn't well managed, then the quality control becomes harder and harder to keep a handle on. Coaches will generally be drawn to players that possess more oven-readiness than those that require greater amounts of time and attention.

On top of all of this you have the individual ambitions of the coaches to take into consideration; some understandably are tempted to play the short game, so their primary aim will be to coach a winning side – as a winning record stands them in better stead as they look to climb the ladder.

So what should be prioritised? It would seem that player development has to be the main driver of academy football; when a young player hits a Premier League first team, then it can be the equivalent of a Euromillions lottery windfall (as West Ham have with Declan Rice, Man City with Phil Foden, Chelsea with Mason Mount, Reece James, etc, etc).

For me, the way that young players are assessed needs to be finessed – both on and off the pitch – as I do not think it is currently helping those players reach the first team. For example, it still irks me that Kieran Dowell was sold.

We had a young player with a wand of a left foot, who regularly shone in youth football for club and country, but who has always struggled with the physical side of the game. But why? What happened with Kieran between the ages of 17 and 23 that addressed the one side of his game that was so obviously lacking? Why didn't the penny drop for him, and his attitude and physicality make the necessary shift?

I'm not talking about the total transformation of a player, I'm talking about managing "natural" weaknesses. I'm talking about giving a player the tools to build something that they lack – to unlock a part of their game that they require come match day.

Dowell is over 6-ft tall, and is not blessed with any real explosive pace; being able to be competitive in the tackle – both in and out of possession – is a requirement in the modern game; why doesn't he have it?

Perhaps Dowell received adequate guidance and support from the coaching staff and just failed to work hard enough to adapt his game. Or maybe the staff lacked the ingenuity to find a way to get through to him. His loan spells did not seem to address these deficiencies either – so maybe the blame does lie with Dowell. But I think that he has the footballing ability to have become a first-team regular – and the fact that he didn't has probably cost the club £20+ million.

Identifying which players have this potential, and successfully carving a path for them to the first team, is what needs to improve. How precisely to do that is still something of a riddle – and I think one that can only really be assessed on an individual basis; hopefully players like Onyango, Dobbin, Simms (et al) will be able to bridge the gap between youth football and the Premier League.

I'm not holding my breath though (although if Onyango doesn't make it then we'll have definitely missed a trick because the raw materials are all there).

Ian Horan
62 Posted 18/11/2021 at 14:13:54
Kieran Dowell is an excellent example of our youth system – technically blessed with an eye for a goal. The physicality of the modern game is only one of the issues, the second more prevalent one is Dowell's self-evaluation of his weaknesses.

A young Ronaldo arrived at Man Utd with skill and talent, he himself realised he wasn't physical enough, in his documentary, CR7 stayed behind after training at United and spent hours in the gym bulking up – all under his own inclination. Once he bulked up he asked Utd to support him to gain more dynamic power.

I suppose CR7 was driven and Dowell possibly thought he had made it!!!!

Don Alexander
63 Posted 18/11/2021 at 15:45:27
The list of names employed in the Finch Farm silo is a laugh. What do they all do, and why do we see nobody better than Tom Davies, a lad of modest talent, from their years-long efforts?

Many of us have alluded to the all-too-comfortable life at Finch Farm and the plethora of names, all taking money out of the club, indicates to me that it's worse than I thought.

As an aside I must thank the self-appointed Sage of Finch Farm (#47) for pointing out that the boss, Unsy, seemingly only gets to coach players from the age of 16 who've had all their bad play ingrained into them already, before he tries but fails (and even the sage agrees with that) to fashion a Premier League starter from any of them.

If that's true though, why on Earth have we had 10- and 11-year-olds in the Everton Academy structure throughout the present Director of Academy's lengthy, disappointing career, and why do none of these properly coached (allegedly) cherubs ever flower into proper top pros either?

Ken Kneale
64 Posted 18/11/2021 at 16:21:21
The wage bill at Finch Farm is not inconsiderable and in any other business would have targets, methodology and be subject to both ongoing review and periodical assessment against such business plan.

Sadly, it is only one more symptom of deep-rooted illness. Like much at Everton under Kenwright and now under Moshiri & /Kenwright, and the management committee. No such critical performance appraisals apply and it seems employment of substandard coaches is fine so long as they are benign and sycophantic to said committee as a whole or parts of it.

This malaise is now deeply rooted in the character of the first team – look at some of the spiritless performance over the last decade... Peter Mills hit the nail on the head last week by commenting how tired he was of seeing half-hearted commitment by highly paid yet modestly talented players and coaches claiming to love the club yet happy to seemingly go through the motions at times.

The more facts that come out about behind-the-scenes at Everton, the more mystifying it is to comprehend – it is death by a thousand cuts as the 30-year decline of reputation and standards continues amid dysfunctional activity from top to bottom.

Tony Abrahams
65 Posted 18/11/2021 at 18:01:59
It's easy to be critical, and even easier to make a fool of yourself by being critical of something that you don't know all the answers to, but for a kid with a little bit of a brain (I'm talking about myself, I might be wrong) who came out of school without one GCSE, I have spent my later years thinking I was an absolute divi, but also thinking it would have been different, if education had been forced upon me.

I wasn't interested once I got guaranteed a football apprenticeship whilst still at school, and this is why Gerard's post saddens me, because that was over 35 years ago, and I now think these scholarships (part of my own personal revamp!) should only be given if the clubs are made to put as much effort into educating the kids, as they are at coaching them on football.

There is way too much lip-service in football, and I'd love to see a complete revamp of a system, that is really just another business, that is currently there, just to hopefully find the next great player.

I always found the film Trading Places fascinating, even if I couldn't stand Eddie Murphy, but I'd honestly love to trade places with some of the people inside these academies now, even though I'm aware I wouldn't last 2 fucking minutes.

Kieran Kinsella
66 Posted 18/11/2021 at 18:33:35
Gerard,

Sounds like that night watchman from Dad's Army. What a great impression the jobsworth must have made on your new recruits?

Brent Stephens
67 Posted 18/11/2021 at 18:40:11
Tony #65 that's a fine post. Needless to say, you're no longer a divi - and I don't know if you ever were.
Dennis Stevens
68 Posted 18/11/2021 at 18:49:40
Night watchman, Kieran? Did you mean the ARP Warden?
Kieran Kinsella
69 Posted 18/11/2021 at 19:01:56
Dennis,

Haha! Sorry, yeah, wrong time period.

Dave Abrahams
70 Posted 18/11/2021 at 19:46:11
Andrew (61) and Ian (62), good posts on Kieran Dowell.

I first saw him in a youth match vs Man City, he was 16 at the most, played on the left wing. His skill was obvious, as was his lack of doing the hard work, but of course allowances were made because of his age. At half-time, I said to the fella next to me: “He won't come back on.” He didn't.

Over the next few years, I pointed out his lack of getting involved in the physical side of the game, not to really have a go at the lad but as constructive criticism, but he never improved this side of his game.

I always asked why nobody at Finch Farm was working on this side of his game because the skills he had in other departments stood out, but reluctantly I thought it was down to the lad himself.

He seemed to do well when he was transferred to Norwich at the start of last season, then got injured. I don't know if he has turned out for them this season.

Did we get a decent fee for him, with add-ons if he moved on from them, or was it just a nominal fee? He should have done better, maybe there is still time for him if he can improve the physical side of his game, but it doesn't look likely after all this time.

Jay Harris
71 Posted 18/11/2021 at 19:59:09
As I made my way down the amateur circuit, I was astounded at the ability of some of the players I played with and against... but there was one common factor in the talented players I played with and that was a lack of desire.

They would frequently show up at the last minute, knowing full well they would get a game, and were half-hearted and moody on the pitch. I came to the conclusion they thought they were too good for us but it was a run-out for them.

I suspect that is why the likes of Dowell don't make it to the top. Because there is a world of difference in performing in the Premier League and standing out at youth level.

It is not just the physical side – it is about application, concentration and real hard work every minute of every day.

Tony Abrahams
72 Posted 18/11/2021 at 20:26:08
There is no fool like an old fool, Brent, although it's sometimes very boring getting older, mate!

Some very good points, Jay, and then you've got to look at the wages, some of these – still very young – players receive, which must also sometimes contribute to a lack of effort, and application, whilst also slowly taking away the desire out of many of them?

Gerard McKean
73 Posted 18/11/2021 at 20:43:34
Tony A, you are exactly the kind of tutor the Academy needs.

I advocated to the CEO that we should have a self-sufficient academy run by real Evertonians with something to offer. I can't tell you how much difference that would make: people with life experience and people with expertise in their subject but all Blues and willing to go the extra mile for these kids to succeed.

Instead she chose to work with people to whom she owed a debt to get her to where she is: one is a Man Utd supporter and the other is RS. She is not a Blue.

Barry Rathbone
74 Posted 18/11/2021 at 20:45:59
Jay Harris @71,

Spot on about the attitude. I was deemed an exceptional talent in my teens and fully expected Everton to whisk me away in a limo – they didn't – even though the other lot did (well not a limo). No wonder they've had so many Evertonians make it there.

And rather than do something about it, I drifted into other "interests".

One thing I would add is it needs a very intelligent, innovative man-manager to develop and motivate naturally talented players. The limited "up and at 'em" coaches coming to the fore in my time would likely have seen me off anyway.

Tony Abrahams
75 Posted 18/11/2021 at 21:16:19
I loved football, but hated the other very false side of it, Gerard, and this definitely stopped me from trying to stay in the game.

I also don't think that you have to be the best (although it would be very nice) just as long as you've got ability, work really hard, and your intentions are fair. Even more importantly, you have got to be very honest if you are going to help young footballers really develop, imo.

It's dog eat dog, it's an environment where you will come across many selfish people, which can make backstabbing rife, but I'm of the opinion that, once you really improve the quality, then it would make it so much harder for the people who are not there on ability alone to survive.

But this is something which is easy to write, and definitely wouldn't be easy to implement.

Jerome Shields
76 Posted 18/11/2021 at 23:01:19
Gerard #6,

Excellent post. The big failing of Finch Farm is that they produce so little and therefore do not develop the potiential of youth at their disposal. This is a perennial problem and needs as well as good coaching and training a support system of education, councelling and empathy to build necessary resilience.

It also takes people with the necessary abilities to manage them. The obvious nepotism and cronyism does not bode well for the best and necessary management application and implementation. As in all young adults, progress must be hard having been selected, not to progress as intended.

Professional teachers are necessary and an integrated curriculum, both which you stated, but would not florish when the performance of those in the management is not scrutinised and acceptance of such behaviour as you describe is accepted as "You know what he is like. " Probably if forced to talk to the perpetrator, "You know what Gerard is like" would be part of the conversation, with original objectives let slide. The objective needs to come, in no uncertain terms, from the top.

Another area is the loaning out of players and, depending on the po!icy of the individual club, with very little input or contact from Everton, as has worryingly became public on occasions. This has increased as the remit of Brands to reduce wages has been put into practice in recent years. Unsworth seems to have publicly accepted responsibility for deciding who is loaned out and to whom.


Paul Birmingham
77 Posted 18/11/2021 at 00:12:00
Belief, belief and believe in your self.

If you think you can you will, and if you don't think you can win, you won't.

I put this poem on TW some years back, as an old boss told me the poem donkies years ago, - Walter D Wintle.

I've kept a copy in my travel bag where ever I go, for over 35 years.

Ups and downs, and a few good results, but it's the realisation of what can be achieved with self belief and positive thinking, and when the low points, and life challenges are faced.

But matters Everton, let's organise a charity walk from Goodison Park to Bramley-Moore Dock and back, and chew the crud, and wash it down, with a few beers and keep the pubs, en route, topped up.

Scope perhaps for 2022, at the end of this season.

Danny O’Neill
78 Posted 19/11/2021 at 02:43:49
Gérard @60 and others who've commented on the educational aspect & responsibilities of the academies, I recommend reading the BBC article on 2 young Scottish teenagers currently in the Bayern Munich academy (also referred to as the Campus). As well as being an interesting football read, a couple of snippets;

On learning the language; "I go to a place here that's basically just a language school," Hepburn adds. "I have that Monday to Thursday, nine in the morning to one in the afternoon. I've got that every week and I've just had an exam. I got 60% – I'll take that."

And then this one: "A "proper intense" training schedule is demanded, along with strict off-field education that has resulted in Morrison passing a diploma in business".

Bayern Munich. One of Europe's super clubs who could, if they wanted, chew them up and spit them out at will. But every player is given a chance for a future in the game, whilst concurrently being prepared for a life outside it and supported in education as well as coached in the beautiful game.

And you can't say the Bayern model hasn't worked. They may be one of the biggest clubs in the world, and obviously able to attract the best young players. A "magnet". But they seemingly have all young players' football development and welfare interests in mind. Even those who won't make it there or possibly elsewhere.

Tony Abrahams
79 Posted 19/11/2021 at 08:36:46
That's the way it should be, Danny, but this is England – it's all about £money – makes you lazy, or very selfish in a lot of instances with regards to the beautiful game in this country.

Going away from the academies for a minute, just look at the way the fans are treated by the richest league in the world.

The Twenty is Plenty campaign saw the clubs reduce the tickets for away fans to £30, and most clubs then reduced the away allocation because they can charge their own fans more.

I said it the other week, but the talent I've seen when watching “some 7/8 year olds” just in the north end of Liverpool is very, very good (I'm being conservative) and my own personal view is that many of them will be ruined by the time they are 12, because they are soon going to be leaving their mates, and joining different academies.

Dave Abrahams
80 Posted 19/11/2021 at 10:34:50
Tony (75),

You did try to stay in the game, passed all your English FA coaching badges which then became worthless when you needed Uefa coaching badges, that's when you gave up.

Should have carried on, mate. I tried, and your partner tried, to get you to carry on but you never did!!

Steve Carse
81 Posted 19/11/2021 at 13:50:18
Jerome (49) lists 49 FF employees. Anyone know how many are employed down the road at Kirkby in similar capacities?
Barry Hesketh
82 Posted 19/11/2021 at 14:06:44
Steve @81 do you mean the Finch Farmer's are working at Kirkby for a second source of income? :) I'll have to wash my hands now as I visited the other lot's site. I'm not sure if the link below is what you wanted to know, Steve, but there are around 50 pictures of coaches on that page.

Liverpool FC Coaches

Barry Hesketh
83 Posted 19/11/2021 at 14:19:13
Steve,

I think the Wiki page linked below is closer to what you wanted to know, a quick count says a similar sized staff to ours.

Liverpool Reserves and Academy Staff List

Robert Tressell
84 Posted 19/11/2021 at 23:21:41
Gerard, those are excellent insights and the real pity of it is that some other club will crack this long before we do. The education side isn't even a novelty given how long continental sides have been doing it.

Not just a pity because it robs us of quality, well adjusted footballers and future coaches – but a pity because it sells kids short from a community the club is supposed to represent.

Tony Abrahams
85 Posted 20/11/2021 at 09:43:10
It baffles me why the clubs don't take over the kids lives from 14, and then start to educate them like Gerard proposed.

Sixty to eighty kids (aged 14-18, but I'd guess some of the first team players might eventually want to get involved, and get more educated?) would surely be covered by four good teachers, and would probably cost the club around £300,000 to run.

Throw in some really good football coaches, and it will probably come in around £500,000 per year, or maybe I've got the figures totally wrong? Even if it's double that, I think it would be money spent better and more wisely than it is currently being spent.

Tony Abrahams
86 Posted 20/11/2021 at 10:02:19
Sorry for going on, and being boring, but I’d also fund this, with the first team squad contributing massively towards the total overall cost.

When they sign for Everton, the club inform the players that they have to give 30/40K, every season towards the cost of its very special academy.

Players who have come through this school, will have already seen the benefits for themselves, and especially for their friends who never had enough talent to become footballers, but have still ended up getting good jobs, because of how grounded, and also well educated they became at the Everton Scholarship Society.

A stupid post maybe? But I’ve honestly felt that there are many stupid things, about the way football is run in our country.

John Keating
87 Posted 20/11/2021 at 10:34:31
Tony,

Just to add about players subsidising academies...

When Scott Brown left Hibs for Celtic, Kevin Thomson to Rangers and Steven Fletcher to Burnley, they all gave their signing-on bonuses to Hibs Academy. Admittedly it wasn't millions but I'm sure this helped a little.

At Hibs, this “gift” seems to have become established and a bit of the norm in recent years, regardless of the amount and the player/club involved. All adds up and helps, I suppose.

Allan Board
88 Posted 20/11/2021 at 11:40:13
Coaching kids is all about you as the coach holding your nerve and not bottling it when it turns tough for you and your team. Have an ethos of playing and stick to it for a set time period, say 7-14 years old.

We all see the game differently and how it should be played to a degree. However, if you get the kids young enough and for long enough, they will all play how you want and in the system or formation you see as the right way.

This is why grassroots football fails because the clubs don't enforce an ethos of playing onto all of their coaches – volunteer or other – for fear of losing coaches and thus the revenue from the teams folding because they haven't got a coach.

The bloody fat cats of the Premier League and the FA should fund grassroots football entirely. I jacked it in because of short-sighted and weak clubs and coaches. I doubt EFC have an ethos of the game running throughout the club either.

Dave Abrahams
89 Posted 20/11/2021 at 12:50:11
Allan (88), yes you get different types of coaches at grass root level, I like to think that a big % do it for the love of the game and the enjoyment, as well as hard work, of seeing kids improve and grow together over a number of years, winning trophies to most of them is welcome but not the be all of why they give their time and energy to running these young lads football clubs.

Tony, my son, was very lucky to play for such a coach at East Villa, Eddie Hewitt, loved football and taught the kids to play in a correct manner, fairly and squarely, Tony joined when he was about eight and stayed with the club until he was fifteen and like the other kids in his team got good knowledge of how football should be player, and most of the teams I saw in this league, Walton and Kirkdale played the same way.

This applied to a lot of boxing coaches that I came across in amateur boxing, they coached for free, never expected any reward but were so proud when any of their lads did well, in boxing and football.

Danny O’Neill
90 Posted 20/11/2021 at 13:21:43
Not stupid at all Tony. What you are suggesting is what areas of the continent have been practicing for years as Robert mentions.

Allan & Dave, most coaches I saw on the sides did it for love of the game. It takes a lot of time, dedication and, yes, money from your own pocket.

One of the problems is, despite the above, many aren't coaches. And with due respect, many haven't even played football. In some cases to any level other than a Thursday night works Goals session.

When our lads got to about 13, we moved them into one of the elite leagues in the area. There were some very good teams and they were beaten, sometimes comprehensively most weeks. But I told them to keep playing, keep working and keep doing their thing as this challenge will improve them as footballers.

2 seasons later, the manager (I was the coach), frustrated with getting beat most weeks, decided to take them back to a more typical local park league. I didn't want to, but was overruled.

Now, in some ways, I was proven right, they had improved no end; you could see the difference. But now I was the frustrated one, as it was mostly too easy. Forget the wins, they were getting sloppy on the ball, trying one trick too many. That doesn't improve a player; it can actually regress them because they instinctively stop working as hard.

I guess there's a balance somewhere. Training was still great though. As a coach, that's where I preferred to be.

My turn to be boring and repetitive. I think a way to have the FA & clubs help out with grass roots would be for each club to "adopt" a number of local satellite clubs in their area. Fund them, so similar to Tony's idea but it's the club not the players. Send coaches along to assist with training regularly. That will rub off and have an affect on the coaches of the local teams too.

But don't swallow the kids up into the academy at 8 years old. Let them play and enjoy football. Leave them in their natural environment until 14 years old.

I know I'm a romantist, but the sooner the culture changes at youth level the better. I know it's a difficult concept to wrap your head around, and the instinct is to win (mine is). But youth football is about development. Winning should be a by product, not the primary focus.

Tony Abrahams
91 Posted 20/11/2021 at 14:42:15
Except when it comes to certain competitions, Danny, like the FA Youth Cup.
Danny O’Neill
92 Posted 21/11/2021 at 02:51:30
I'll go with that, Tony. I'll drop my principles for a good FA Cup run regardless of age group!!

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