After failing to show up for pre-season training with the U23s at Finch Farm last month, Thierry Small appears to have rejected all approaches from Everton to persuade him to sign a professional contract at the club.
The young left-back burst into prominence with some fine displays for both U18 and U23 sides last season, culminating in a cameo sub appearance near the end of Everton's FA Cup tie with Sheffield Wednesday last season, when he became the youngest player in Everton history at the age of 16 years and 176 days, breaking Jose Baxter's 2008 record by 15 days.
But the promise of a quick path to the first team for the exciting left-back didn't seem to convince the youngster who apparently sees both Lucas Digne and Niels Nkounkou ahead of him in the pecking order for his preferred position.
With his 17th birthday on 1 August, he would have been able to sign a lucrative professional contract with the Blues but all hopes have faded with the latest indications online claiming he will become a free agent.
When he does sign up with another club, they will become liable to pay compensation to Everton for their part in his development. Such sums are usually small in comparison to the value of such a promising player on the open market, contingent of course on his contractual commitments.
The loss of one of the best prospects to come through the Everton Academy in recent years represents a huge blow to the Academy ethos, and would appear to confirm serious concerns about Everton's ability to nurture and develop promising young players, and bring them on to become successful members of the first-team.
Reader Comments (42)
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
1 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:06:55
I think the club needs some positive news on the playing front soon or I can see Goodison being toxic this year.
2 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:13:31
But I doubt many blues will notice this or that it will add to any toxicity.
3 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:14:52
EFC are good at glossing over everything and keeping us in the dark. A real chasm between the fans and the suits. Unless it's the stadium, I think they've done well on that front.
4 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:22:01
Due to his family background, it looks likely that the lad will end up at Villa Park to add to the evidence that Villa is such a better club than Everton - well in some people's eyes they are.
5 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:23:10
It's illustrated rather poignantly with this from a wonderful puff-piece on Small that appeared on the official website back in January:
The England Under-15 international says his impressive progress has been underpinned by the first-class coaching and the supportive atmosphere at Everton Academy. “Ive loved every minute of it here,” he says. “Everton is one of the best academies in England. “Its great to play with the players Ive grew up with since I was 11 and try to get better together every day. “The coaching is top quality. “The detail they provide is brilliant. Were fortunate weve got technology – training and matches are filmed – so anything that needs improvement, the coaches will pick up on and create a little playlist or a few clips and point it out to me. Its really helpful. "Everyone is supportive at Everton and its like a family environment. Its a great club to be a part of.” A skilful, dynamic footballer who boasts impressive ball-striking ability and stamina, Small believes his attributes are ideally suited to the left-back position. “I love both attacking and defending,” Small says. “I like one-v-one battles with the opposition. I never like to let my opponent get the better of me. “Because Im quite fast, I think left-back is good for me because I can get up and down the pitch quite well. “I think my pace and power are really good attributes because Im able to get myself in good positions. “Now its about developing the technical aspects, like my crossing. I need to keep working hard on that.”
“Ive loved every minute of it here,” he says. “Everton is one of the best academies in England.
“Its great to play with the players Ive grew up with since I was 11 and try to get better together every day.
“The coaching is top quality.
“The detail they provide is brilliant. Were fortunate weve got technology – training and matches are filmed – so anything that needs improvement, the coaches will pick up on and create a little playlist or a few clips and point it out to me. Its really helpful.
"Everyone is supportive at Everton and its like a family environment. Its a great club to be a part of.”
A skilful, dynamic footballer who boasts impressive ball-striking ability and stamina, Small believes his attributes are ideally suited to the left-back position.
“I love both attacking and defending,” Small says.
“I like one-v-one battles with the opposition. I never like to let my opponent get the better of me.
“Because Im quite fast, I think left-back is good for me because I can get up and down the pitch quite well.
“I think my pace and power are really good attributes because Im able to get myself in good positions.
“Now its about developing the technical aspects, like my crossing. I need to keep working hard on that.”
6 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:32:27
7 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:32:55
I think it's he's been poorly advised... if he wants to go and play for Villa, the team he supports, fair enough. If it's anything other than that, he's been poorly advised.
I don't think this can be blamed on Everton. Remember Dan Gosling? Bet he's after regretting listening to his agent that time.
8 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:44:37
Players like Small are particularly desirable post-Brexit, I assume, because clubs can't harvest the best youngsters from across Europe anymore.
Shame, but bearing in mind the club made him our youngest ever first team player, I'm not sure there's much more we could have done to show our love for him. Maybe not be so shit, but that's true of all our problems.
9 Posted 11/08/2021 at 12:53:21
From what Brent and Phil say he still has a lot to learn and we wouldnt expect him to be happy as third choice.
He may develop, he may crash and burn. Hopefully we will get a million or so in compo.
10 Posted 11/08/2021 at 13:19:32
Given Michael's attributed quotes to Small about the top quality football education he received at Everton's academy, it rather negates the less than favourable views expressed by some about what goes on at Finch Farm.
Everton wanted him to sign a professional contract and were not passive to his rejection, continuing to pursue him.
He has taken up his right to be become a free agent on the pretext he wants a clear path to first team football.
I consider, given his still young age, if he is sincere in that claim that Everton offers as good an opportunity to achieve that than any number of alternative suitors.
I fancy family ties and other voices whispering in his ear is the bigger influence on his decision than the 'he's rejected Everton 'cos we're shite at everything we do' line some may want to run with.
11 Posted 11/08/2021 at 14:13:49
Yes, the facilities are fabulous but the coaches are not world class, and there's no progression. What (other than money and blind loyalty) will make youth players stay at the club?
It needs a clean-out top to bottom. We're awful at managing their progression. May as well give up and just buy ready-made players and risk signing them in their late teens.
More clubs are going to ditch their youth teams. It's expensive with little reward unless well managed.
12 Posted 11/08/2021 at 14:23:08
13 Posted 11/08/2021 at 14:24:44
I wouldn't agree he's our best youngster, certainly our best young left-back: outstanding energy levels to get up the pitch into goal scoring positions and finish well, but still a lot to learn defensively. His strength and speed are a big asset for him and mark him out at youth level but will it still be the case when he plays against men?
I briefly saw Chelsea's outgoing players on Sky Sports News, 3 of their top young defenders have left this summer: Fiko Tomori, Marc Guehi and Tino Livramento, all have achieved more than Small so far and I'd have taken any of them in a swap deal and paid Chelsea money.
Time to concentrate on the ones we've got rather than the one who's gone.
14 Posted 11/08/2021 at 14:35:48
Jeffers springs to mind also. It does however, for whatever reason, question why the Academy isn't producing enough players for years for the first team. We need talent from the Academy in abundance at the moment. The Academy will have running costs with all the coaches too, so it really needs to up the ante.
15 Posted 11/08/2021 at 14:49:32
He just didn't fancy it. Or had his head turned. Shame, but he's a way to go before being a first-team player – even for a lower Premier League team.
16 Posted 11/08/2021 at 15:05:47
As Phill (13) says, he has good potential, let's see where it takes him. My own opinion is that he's nowhere as good as he thinks he is, and that would have applied if he had stayed here.
Joe (7), Kenwright cocked that deal up and allowed Gosling to be a free agent and get a very good signing-on fee off Newcastle Utd.
17 Posted 11/08/2021 at 16:24:15
18 Posted 11/08/2021 at 16:27:22
Our academy comes up with a few decent players every season but they just hang around, never get in the first team, and leave for peanuts when they reach 22 or 23. The game today wants players who can instantly deliver at Premier League level. There isn't the time to give them a run of games to bed in.
19 Posted 11/08/2021 at 16:45:41
Many big youngsters struggle when their peers catch up to them and this may well be the case with Small. Like lots of 'next great things', he could well disappear without trace; most do.
I won't be losing any sleep over this one.
20 Posted 11/08/2021 at 16:51:34
He is nowhere near a regular Premier League place so I don't understand why he does not see the opportunity at Everton but, these days, money and impatience does a lot to their ego.
21 Posted 11/08/2021 at 17:25:26
Yes.. maybe it was Kenwright being nieve.. but from what I remember the club were well screwed over by gosling and his agent at the time.
Agents.. though are needed.. they're the scurge of football. Money greedy snakes.
22 Posted 11/08/2021 at 17:54:00
As long as we get compensated appropriately, £2M ish, nothing else we can do.
Now, it will be interestingly to see where he goes and if the FA, UEFA investigate the whole thing.
We had a ban not long ago for signing young player's, this is surely in the same category of wrong doing by someone.
23 Posted 11/08/2021 at 18:41:36
Yes, agents are a curse and obviously Gosling's agent got his spoke in, but if Kenwright hadn't waited and got Gosling to sign by a certain date, then the deal would have been done.
But Kenwright was trying to save money by waiting and trusted Gosling to sign the contract. Gosling or his agent saw the chance to make money and took advantage. That cost Everton about £3M that Newcastle would have had to pay for him.
24 Posted 11/08/2021 at 19:23:59
If he wants out l et him go.
Raises questions about Everton coaching staff and player management, was he being mentored by Everton, Villa or some other team?
25 Posted 11/08/2021 at 20:28:09
Livramento impressed me hugely when we beat their Under 18s in the Youth Cup - far more than their captain Lewis Bate (who has now joined Leeds); I think Southampton have made an excellent signing who I expect will be a Premier League regular within two seasons.
26 Posted 11/08/2021 at 20:53:33
Think his advisors are shortsighted. Digne is going to have time out and he had every chance of replacing Nkounkou.
Hope Niels makes it; if not, Godfrey can step in very well in a worst case.
I do think we are becoming known as a club that no longer lets youngsters breakthrough, and that's so dangerous for mid-term prospects. Hopefully Whitaker or Dobbin proves me wrong (as well as Branthwaite and Gordon please!)
27 Posted 11/08/2021 at 21:48:59
28 Posted 11/08/2021 at 22:59:30
There are clearly many factors in this. He, his family, or his advisors don't see his future at Everton.
The Evertonian could argue he is being impatient. At 17 and with the current first-choice left-back being 28, he would probably have gotten his chance soon if rated as some claim.
But then, with a bit of balance, if, as some have said above, his preference is his boyhood club, who could deny him that? But then he has to dislodge Matt Targett. A current on-form 25-year-old. So an equal risk.
Would we have Digne or Targett? I like both, but know my preference. And do they have a player like Nkounkou behind Targett? Maybe he fancies his chances better there or even elsewhere.
The other factor is back to the system. A kid taken out of his natural surroundings, separated from his friends and left home at 11 years old. No wonder he is homesick and been denied a natural upbringing. He could arguably just want to go home. I struggled at 16 and believe me I couldn't wait to get away at the time. But within months, and for years later when sent to shitty places, couldn't wait to get back.
We often ignore or choose to forget the human factor.
That aside, time will tell whether we have lost a future left-back or let go of another "could have been". Too early to tell, but I'm not going to slate the youngster regardless of whether it is his personal choice or those advising him. We all make choices in life. At the time we always think they are the right ones. Sometimes they are, often they are not. But you live and learn and have to make those decisions for yourself.
Thierry Small will look back at this as a career changing decision either way. Good luck, son.
29 Posted 12/08/2021 at 05:25:56
No need to slate either the club or the kid.
30 Posted 12/08/2021 at 05:35:28
31 Posted 12/08/2021 at 08:49:41
Up until this point, I have to admit I hadnt even heard of him.
32 Posted 12/08/2021 at 09:11:51
It's his choice, the world won't spin off its axis because a 17-year-old goes home.
33 Posted 12/08/2021 at 11:17:28
No, that's far too simplistic for me and ignores the expectations reasonably placed upon him by the club that has nurtured and developed him for the last 6 years.
When he graduated from the Academy in June 2020, he signed a 2-year scholarship agreement with the club that would cover the period up to and beyond when they could agree a professional contract he could sign, on or after his 17th birthday (just over a week ago).
I'd have a lot more respect for him if he had turned up for training, as he was obliged to do under that agreement, rather than just doing a runner. If he could not agree the terms of that professional contract, then he could have left, presumably with the (reluctant?) acceptance of the club, mutually terminating that agreement.
In truth, it makes little difference, I suppose, once the bond between player and club is broken, and it can't be fixed. From what we've been fed (#5 above; this story from April), he was ecstatic with life at Everton in January 2021, and became Everton's youngest ever first-team player later that month.
Okay, the rumblings of discontent went public in April, so maybe he expected a lot more chances would be given to him last season, only to realize it had just been a little teaser from Ancelotti, who clearly had no interest in bringing him on. So I've convinced myself here: this is one we can also put at the feet of the Italian turncoat!
34 Posted 12/08/2021 at 11:35:41
While registered at an Academy, you are not permitted to either directly or indirectly contact any other Premier League or EFL Clubs during your agreed registration period. Likewise, other Premier League or EFL Clubs (via members of staff, scouts or Intermediaries), must not make either a direct or indirect approach to you or any person connected with you. This includes contact by or with your parents, another family member, or anyone else connected to you.
At the end of each Season, the Academy system provides all Academy Players with an opportunity to consider their options, and a permitted time period to be contacted by, or to contact Clubs if you have chosen to leave your Academy, or if you have been released. However, any approach or contact with or by another Club outside of this time period could be deemed a breach of the Premier League's Rules.
35 Posted 12/08/2021 at 12:07:24
Couple of things with this.
I'm uncomfortable with children (they are) being tied into contracts or agreements. Call it "registered", but that's effectively what it seems they are when you seen those types terms and conditions quoted above.
Also, wasn't there a rule about youth players and distance from home some time ago? Has that now gone? I only say as a friend of mine when we were based in Wales had to negotiate that when his son was being courted by Villa. He got around it by having family in the area, so essentially using a postcode near their Leicestershire training ground. But they travelled a round trip of 500 miles to training only to be turned down after several months.
If that rule ever existed or doesn't anymore, I'd be keen on seeing it as it would see clubs invest more in the local grass roots as that would be their sole (within reason) recruiting ground. And I think in the north west, we have a rich recruiting ground. Imposed a recruitment distance radius and not being able to sign foreign players until 18. Then you are allowing young players to grown naturally in their natural environment and at home. Idealistic scenario, I know.
A lot to be debated there and more questions & opening of discussion from me rather than professed detailed knowledge.
36 Posted 12/08/2021 at 13:18:33
Over the years, young players have suffered from constant criticism from large elements of the crowd, eg, Rodwell, Barkley, Davies, Kenny, Stones, Lukaku, Holgate, Calvert-Lewin and so on.
37 Posted 12/08/2021 at 20:25:12
38 Posted 12/08/2021 at 22:40:33
Didn't we do the same with Gibson and I am sure a few more.
Let's face it taking an 11 year old from the Midlands to play junior football up here is morally questionable.
I am sure the city of Liverpool and its surrounding area of circa 500k people has many young left backs waiting to be developed.
39 Posted 12/08/2021 at 22:43:28
40 Posted 12/08/2021 at 22:56:21
As regards Academies how many produce more than the occasional Premier League first team player? Not many. One of the reasons for that is the short term outlook adopted by managers, whose focus inevitably is on the here and now. Few managers survive more than 18 months in their role and see little point in risking their brief tenure by nurturing youth players who may or may not make it.
Also woe betide our present manager if he dares to play a young, unproven team at Huddersfield. Few fans will argue that doing so would provide development opportunities for new talent. For fans a cup run takes precedence over development, so desperate are we to have even a faint chance of winning a trophy.
41 Posted 19/08/2021 at 00:56:08
42 Posted 19/08/2021 at 01:10:40
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.