Gareth Prosser is Everton's new Academy Director

Monday, 20 June, 2022 82comments  |  Jump to last

Everton have appointed Gareth Prosser as the new Academy Director, with Paul Tait the new U21s head coach and Leighton Baines appointed head coach for the U18s.

Prosser previously worked with Everton's Director of Football Kevin Thelwell, at Wolverhampton Wanderers where he was involved in the Elite Player Performance Plan development, resulting in their academy achieving Category One status in 2012.

Tait moves up from running the U18s previously, while former player Baines is given the role of leading the going forward.

The moves are seen as important changes implemented as a result of the club's strategic review into football operations, but the retention of Tait and Baines may seem more like the same old Everton Way, with no fresh blood or ideas brought in to these key posts.

 

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Phill Thompson
1 Posted 20/06/2022 at 15:34:14
It’s now confirmed as Gareth Prosser and Paul Tait has been named as the new Head Coach of Everton Under-21s, with former Blues defender Leighton Baines succeeding him as Under-18s Head Coach.
Mike Gaynes
2 Posted 20/06/2022 at 16:12:33
Bainesy! Excellent.

I look forward to many immaculately-taken penalties and swerving free kicks from the U-18s.

Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 20/06/2022 at 16:42:06
As long as the Academy Director is allowed to be and behaves like the Academy Director they I'm fine with it.

The previous incumbent, despite apparently being promoted still sat in the comfort zone of his U23s dugout rather than look at a strategy.

Hopefully this is the start of the new coaching staff putting their stamp on the club from grass roots up.

Out with the old guard. In with the new.

Leave the nostalgia and sentiment to the likes of me.

Phill Thompson
4 Posted 20/06/2022 at 16:51:02
Danny, it appears that the Academy Director Gareth Prosser reports to DoF Thelwell.

What is less clear is that the U21 Head Coach and u18 Head Coach report, apparently, to our Head of Academy Coaching who is John Ebbrell.

So not so much change on the coaching side. I would add I haven't seen that confirmed, it was just how the U21 advert job was worded.

Sam Hoare
5 Posted 20/06/2022 at 17:33:28
There seems to remain a predilection for promoting in house and within the Everton 'family'. While this sentiment is admirable it is debatable as to whether it has worked in the past.

Obviously I'm a huge fan of Bainesy as player and club idol but his coaching experience is still fairly limited. This is a step up for him. Hope he does well.

Jay Harris
7 Posted 20/06/2022 at 18:31:15
I wouldn't underestimate Tait or Baines and we need to keep some foundation to build on.

Prosser seems to have built up some useful connections and strategic ability but has been around Thelwell for a long time so the same goes there. I hope and believe it is not "jobs for the boys" but time will tell.

Robert Tressell
8 Posted 20/06/2022 at 19:14:35
Hopefully another step in the right direction.

Sounds like an organiser rather than coach and elite player development (as per role at Wolves) is what we need, within a wider strategy for the academy.

Mind you, Morgan Gibbs-White is I think the only recent notable graduate of their academy.

Tait has, I guess, been promoted. Fair enough. I can't really judge the guy.

Baines hopefully has the qualities of a good coach. U18s is in many ways more important than U23s – or is it U21s now? I lose track.

Michael Kenrick
9 Posted 20/06/2022 at 20:42:10
It is the U21s going forward, Robert. The U23 'branding' is no more – after just 6 seasons. But I assume the PL2 moniker stays.

And Baines gets a wonderfully glowing endorsement from Chris Beesley in the Echo:

Everton have just made the ideal academy appointment

Based on what exactly it is that makes him a great coach for the U18s (as distinct from being a great player for the club in his time)... I'm really not sure.

I mean, if Jeffers, Baxter, Ebbrell, Tait, Unsworth and Ferguson have been stalwart ex-Blues at Finch Farm through these darkest days – and most of them have survived the "strategic review" unscathed, yet they were all pilloried under the "jobs for the boys" mantra – well, exactly where does that leave us?

If are to judge them not by results of football games at this level but only by players making the grade, then that gives them a good 5 years in the job before we can really expect to see any end product getting to the first team or being sold on for a decent fee.

Justin Doone
10 Posted 20/06/2022 at 22:10:44
I wish them all well but I don't recall Wolves as having a reputation for producing good academy graduates, even in the championship?

Close links to player agents and Portugal yes, producing homegrown talent, no.

When thinking of homegrown academy graduates I tend to think of our red neighbours, Man U, Man C, Middlesbrough, Leeds, Villa, Birmingham, West Ham, Arsenal, Palace, Southampton.

I know very little of Tait but with Baines, we have one of our best ever graduates.

He suffered the upset of being released before fighting for his professional future, proving the critics wrong before coming home and having a great career.

He could have a huge positive impact on the majority of youngsters who don't make it at first.

Dupont Koo
11 Posted 21/06/2022 at 01:41:36
For those skeptics on Thelwell, bringing in Prosser might be seen as his move to rebuild the Wolverhampton Fraternity. But with Thelwell's various subtle moves so far at the academy (e.g. retaining U18 defender Mallon on the verge of Blackburn hijacking him without compensation), I am impressed with his "Walk the Walk before Talk the Talk" approach and am keeping fingers crossed with his ongoing restructuring with our entire Football Operations, which included Prosser's appointment too.

I have been a proud chartered member of "Kenwright Out ASAP" Club since the collapse of the King's Dock project almost 9 years ago, so I am never convinced with Tait's work: he and Unsworth were seen as given carte blanche by Kenwright and have compromised Marcel Brands's mandate of all Under-Age Teams should play a similar (if not 100% identical) style to the First Team and a "development over winning" approach (which is what Thelwell is trying to establish once again).

To be fair, some fellow Evertonians have argued that Tait's work so far has mostly been affected by Unsworth's exposure and behind-the-scene influence on Academy Level. Let's give Tait the benefit of the doubt to prove himself that he can comply with Thelwell's organisation-wide approach on playing style and coaching philosophies. He has to do a lot to prove us wrong though.

While Bainsey's playing career mostly overlapped with Kenwright's Chairmanship, he has been coached by a cosmopolitan roster of coaches with a combination of Hardcore UK Toughneck, Disillusioned Idealist, Stubborn Introvert, Ultra Pragmatist and World-Class Serial Winner. That led me to believe that his exposure, ultra-professionalism and calm demeanour is a different type of species from other Kenwright entourage. Given his pedigree, I am quietly excited on what he can do with our U18 Young Guns.

In short, we can't have everything, but the appointments do provide a lot of hope.

Alan J Thompson
12 Posted 21/06/2022 at 05:35:33
So where does Kevin Nicholson fit in all of this, or is he just the Time & Motion man?
Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 21/06/2022 at 05:43:14
Phill, Robert, I always respect your views on the academy and the development teams.

I think it's small steps, but you can see that this management team is starting to put it's own stamp on things. You can't undo things overnight; that is never healthy. But slowly, they are implementing the model they want and putting in place the people they want. It's normal in any business or walk of life to surround yourself with people you've worked with previously and people you trust.

God forbid, but it could be that they have a plan and a strategy. It might not deliver immediately, but give it 3 years and we walk into the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock with a trophy and I get to watch Schalke v Everton in the Europa League.

It's only Tuesday. Sorry. I hate mid-season; it makes the mind wander.

And for the record, although I'm vocal about the "jobs for the boys" mentality, I don't necessarily oppose ex-players being given jobs. I just want them to be appointed on ability, not sentiment.

I have a good feeling about Baines as a coach. Especially working alongside Cole. Our full-backs have the 2 best English left-backs of their generation to learn from.

If we're talking ex-players, now go and tell Osman he is better suited to Finch Farm than the Sky Studio and coax Pienaar from Ajax before the new Manchester United manager does.

Tony Abrahams
14 Posted 21/06/2022 at 08:02:21
I've just looked at the names Sam H, has just mentioned on another thread with regards Chelsea's fringe players, and definitely think this is what every academy should be looking to do. Produce players, especially ones that like the ball, surely this isn't too difficult a task, for an elite academy?
Jerome Shields
15 Posted 21/06/2022 at 08:54:14
'The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) is a long-term strategy with the aim of developing more and better homegrown players.

The EPPP is the result of consultation between the Premier League and its clubs, representatives of the Football League, the Football Association and other key football stakeholders.

Introduced in 2012 with the mission of producing more and better homegrown players, the plan promotes the empowerment of each individual player through a player-led approach.

The EPPP works across three phases: Foundation (Under-9 to Under-11), Youth Development (U12 to U16) and Professional Development (U17 to U23).

The Premier League Football Development Department work for, with and on behalf of our clubs to deliver a world-class youth development system via the delivery of four key functions: Game Programmes, Education, Coaching, Games program and Elite Performance. '

What this tells me is that everything that was said about the ineffectiveness of the Academy was true in that it had no structure or goals. What the new DOF has done is brought in people to put a standard structure in place. But there lies the weakness of the Review of the long Term Strategic Plan, big on structure and titles, but no performance targets or accountability.

Really we will end up with an Academy getting awards from the Premier League, but not producing the necessary players for the Club. There is no mention of high-performance program, targets or accountability. How many players is this Academy going to produce and how does it tie in with the first-team squad going forward?

Thinking of the endless PR garbage that will be wheeled out about this over the next 5 years makes me want to throw up.

Brian Harrison
16 Posted 21/06/2022 at 09:34:50
Yet another appointment to look after the academy to work alongside the newly appointed coaches and our new DoF. But I have little faith that much will change and, in a few years time, we will be appointing yet another DOF and another new Academy Director.

But it was only a couple of years back that our previous DoF, Marcel Brands, unveiled a new scouting system that would operate in South America and Africa as well as strengthening our existing scouting network. But as far as I am aware, we haven't brought anybody from South America or Africa… maybe since Brands left that initiative has been shelved?

As for having Under-9 and Under-11 teams, it is just nonsense and for two very good reasons. First how often have we seen very good 17-year-olds just not make it by the time they are 20?

Also building up hopes of kids under 9 and under 11 that one day they might play for Everton is bordering on cruel. I would love to know how many who start in under 9 or under 11 ever become professional footballers never mind play for Everton.

For me we should go back to not being able to sign kids till they are 16 when at least they are much more easily assessed as to whether they have a chance of making the grade.

Michael Kenrick
17 Posted 21/06/2022 at 09:47:00
Brian,

"As for having Under-9 and Under-11 teams, it is just nonsense"

It's been an integral part of the Academy system now for many years, Brian. The number of ToffeeWeb player profiles I write up that start with "Joe Blow has been with the Academy since he was 4, 7, 10" is absolutely mind-blowing.

How this can possibly be a sensible way to develop young players seems complete madness to us who are not privileged to be a part of the system. But I believe the wholly inadequate response is "If we don't grab 'em young, someone else will."

Dave Abrahams
18 Posted 21/06/2022 at 09:57:05
Good luck with those appointments; they do nothing for me.

Paul Tait was the outstanding candidate for the position of U21 coach... go way! Who were the other candidates?

Doesn't look like a lot of thought went into these appointments.

Brian Harrison
19 Posted 21/06/2022 at 10:10:20
Michael,

I appreciate that not only Everton but many clubs have kids under 9 teams, but I totally disagree with the idea; it may have been an integral part of the Academy system for a long while but that doesn't make it right.

Chelsea seem to be the one club that has probably got the best-performing Academy system of any club I know. They produce high quality kids who bring in vast fortunes when they are deemed surplus to requirements. I have lost count of the number of kids that have come through their academy and have gone on to have great careers.

Yet when you contrast that with us, I think only Rooney and Barkley have been sold for really top money, some others have gone for very modest sums.

So Chelsea are actually making their academy not only self-funding but also a very lucrative money-making machine. I would hope that Lampard with his Chelsea background can introduce something similar at Everton.

Michael, you are much better informed than me, so maybe you can tell me if the initiative that Brands set up having scouts in South America and Africa has seen any kids from these continents arrive and has had any success?

Michael Kenrick
20 Posted 21/06/2022 at 12:19:16
Dave,

"Who were the other candidates?"

Ooo, you are awful. I coulda sworn you knew them already!

Dave Abrahams
21 Posted 21/06/2022 at 12:56:02
Michael (20),

I had heard that one name had been mentioned who was in the running for the job; maybe he was maybe not. Maybe he looked at who he was answerable to, John Ebbrell, and thought “Fuck that for a game of soldiers”.

Or maybe because he is well settled in a job away from football and Everton's future is rather cloudy, to say the least...

And of course the final maybe: his name was never in the running to begin with.

I hope everyone is noticing that Michael has got us well cased with our posting on here and is a bit of a Keir Starmer!!

Michael Kenrick
22 Posted 21/06/2022 at 13:02:04
Brain,

I think you're right on the money there, I can't disagree.

With Chelsea, it seems they have succeeded by sheer weight of numbers. I haven't studied this in depth but I believe they have had large numbers going through their Academy and especially going out on loan.

At Everton, as far as I can tell, we retain enough players to support the U18 and U23 (now U21) teams so they can put out a full team and subs bench... most of the time – and that's obviously as it should be. And then there's always at least 5 to 10 more players with long-term injuries at any given time, and we usually have a modest number out on loan.

But the push last season was to lower the ages of both groups. I need to do an analysis of that to see how much of a difference was made – I know it made a hell of a difference to the success of the teams on the pitch, with them having their worst performance records for a long time... but the U23s at least finished above (wait for it!) Chelsea, who were marginally worse and only just avoided relegation to PL2 Div 2.

We don't have a huge number out on loan, and I'm okay with that as, in most cases, the loans turn into failures for one reason or another. Perhaps that's the (old?) Everton Academy view? Good way to separate wheat and chaff.

Sorry, I saw your question about the expanded scouting ventures... I know nothing about that, I'm afraid, and don't recall seeing anything written about it on't'Interweb. But I can tell you I don't know of any U18 or U23 players in the Academy claiming African or South American origins, if that means anything.

Pat Kelly
23 Posted 21/06/2022 at 13:05:50
We're getting an academy ?
Derek Taylor
24 Posted 21/06/2022 at 13:07:28
However successful this confusing myriad of coaches, managers and directors of all that moves may be, unless their charges are allowed more opportunities than spending their early twenties sitting on their arses, the set up will be to no avail.

How the likes of Rondon can be viewed as more effective than any of our much vaunted home grown players, I know not. Only to say that growing up with Everton has, for years, meant no more than a guarantee of being shipped out once you reach the twenty mark !

Lampard has proved no more inclined to give youth a chance than his predecessors with only one kid given a real chance even when established 'stars' have been shite !

Michael Kenrick
25 Posted 21/06/2022 at 13:20:05
Dave,

I have been known to imbibe the odd alcoholic beverage now and again, sometimes with takeaway nosh, but photos of said activities are scarce.

I quite like Sir Kier Starmer as a person but I'm not sure about his policies... if he has any. I can say categorically, however, that I do not support and will happily condemn the rail strikes!

Phill Thompson
26 Posted 21/06/2022 at 14:00:19
Brian #19, for me the key difference between Chelsea's Academy and ours is that it was backed originally by the owner, money was provided, and it had clear aims in how they would develop the players.

This was backed up by a recruitment policy which identified and targeted the best local English players while bringing in other young players at an early age from outside, eg, Billy Gilmour. This has flourished despite the number of managerial changes they have had.

Sadly, we are miles away from any of those things. We don't really have anything identifiable at our Academy that is sustainable, we just seem to lurch from season to season, and hope that the DoF and the coaches will get it right.

Having said that, I am optimistic that we have some good 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds coming through. Our major advantage over Chelsea is that they are looking for youngsters who can win them the Champions League, we only need youngsters who can get us in the Top 6!

Tony Abrahams
27 Posted 21/06/2022 at 14:32:35
So you think that Chelsea’s success has had very little to do with how the players have been getting coached Phill, and more to do with their recruitment policy?


Jerome Shields
28 Posted 21/06/2022 at 14:57:46
Phil#26

It's not just was like that of it's own devices. There was method in it for those that where drawing big salaries for fancy titles and not having to produce. They even where able to produce U23 teams on related to the first team squad, and claim credit for there winnings.

Though these present changes will bring more of a structure, there will be incumbents in the Academy Management who will be able to work the system and continue not to produce, but bask in the glory of passing audited standards in the Elite player program.

The one thing the Academy always had was a sophisticated structure with loads of titles. What we are getting is more of the same with obtainable standards set by Premier League auditors. No one will be targeted or accountable.

IMO Academy policy should be lead by the Objectives of the Club to win competitions and fit in with a whole Club plan to achieve that objective.

The real objective of the Club is Premier League Survival to maintain the existing status quo. The Academy and all other areas of the Club reflect that.

Phill Thompson
29 Posted 21/06/2022 at 15:12:44
Tony #27, no not at all. Their commitment obviously included a very good coaching structure going hand in hand with a good recruitment structure. Turn it the other way around, we at Everton can get the best coaches, but it’s nothing if they are not coaching good players because we’ve failed in recruiting good players.
Danny O’Neill
30 Posted 21/06/2022 at 15:16:48
It's always about coaching.

Too many clubs who rely on the modern academy system try to hoover up young players and play the numbers game. Then spit them out when they are not needed.

When I first came down here in 2004, Chelsea's kids were playing on the same daisy ridden pitches that my Hayes & Yeading boys were down at Sipson near Heathrow. I even think the senior team trained there if I recall.

They re-vamped themselves. They developed Cobham and the academy. But they adopted a satellite style approach with local teams. Watford do that very well too. Boys play for their team but are on the books and occasionally get asked to represent Watford. But they get to play with their mates in their natural environment and be normal.

In fairness, we've done some of that with Finch Farm. We've built a fine facility that is to be admired.

Facilities are important. We see it all over the continent. But until it reaches down to grass roots, only those who are considered elite will access it. We don't support or tap into the grass roots on our door step enough. And by that, I don't mean pulling everyone into the Finch Farm bubble at 8 years old. Clubs can do more to sponsor local teams. It would be mutually beneficial. We talk about Everton in the community. How about we start with football? We are a football club right?

Bin the academy system. Sponsor local teams and go out into the community to coach and mentor. Leave the kids in their natural environments and only take them in at 14 years old or even 16. Let them be normal and enjoy football without the expectation of making it on their very young shoulders.

And regardless of facilities, if the coaching isn't there, players won't improve and develop.

Coaching is vital. It's the most important thing in my opinion. Otherwise, we waste talent.

It's all about coaching.

Mike Gaynes
31 Posted 21/06/2022 at 15:29:01
Danny #30:

"Bin the academy system. Sponsor local teams and go out into the community to coach and mentor. Leave the kids in their natural environments and only take them in at 14 years old or even 16."

Sounds great for the young players themselves, but what does it do for Everton? What prevents a kid in the community whom we have "coached and mentored" into a prospect at age 14 from simply signing with another club?

Robert Tressell
32 Posted 21/06/2022 at 15:31:06
An academy to look at by comparison might be Atalanta. They are based very close to AC Milan, Inter, Juve and Torino.

It is not unlike the north-west of England where there are a couple of big cities but competition for young talent.

Atalanta have elevated themselves through youth scouting and player development. See players like Barrow, Diallo (now at Man U) and Kulusevski (now at Spurs).

Having done that they are working hard on home grown talent and it is starting to come through.

They, like us, are competing for quality with rich neighbours. They are doing it, so I believe, through good coaching rather than just the numbers game (which I think oversimplifies how Chelsea are doing it by the way).

In short it doesn't take vast wealth to have a top class academy (although, like everything else in life, it helps).

Raymond Fox
33 Posted 21/06/2022 at 15:32:11
Phill's just took the words from my mouth.

As far as producing star players is concered, the top teams I expect get the most promising youngsters, its a lot to do with "best in, best out".

Natural ability is of the foremost importance, I should think. If a lad has two left feet, you can coach him till the cows come home but he won't make the grade.

Jerome Shields
34 Posted 21/06/2022 at 15:36:03
Danny that would be a ideal and worthwhile solution. Academies have just become structures with highly paid jobs, with coaches trained on affiliated fees from governing bodies. These bodies come up with systems and standards that their highly paid auditors monitor.

For an Academy to produce, it really needs people with skills way beyond the achievement of an Elite Player Program standards.

Good youth programs in the community.

Good selection criteria

Good coaching

Good and continuous development.

The right people to implement it

Andrew Keatley
35 Posted 21/06/2022 at 16:17:11
Phill (26) - I know you are one of the most informed and up-to-date when it comes to our academy sides, but I think what we are trying to do - in terms of recruitment - is fairly standard.

You claim Chelsea have "a recruitment policy which identified and targeted the best local English players while bringing in other young players at an early age from outside, eg, Billy Gilmour." I'd say that Everton - and most other clubs - adopt a similar policy, albeit that the lure of Everton and the lure of other clubs will differ from one individual young player to the next - and other clubs might be more actively aggressive in their bids to acquire their targets.

There are a number of highly-rated youngsters that Everton have acquired at 16+ (similar to Gilmour when he left Rangers for Chelsea) over the last few seasons, including Francis Okoronkwo, Mohamed Ali-Cho, Lewis Gibson, Seb Kristensen, Sean McAllister, Einar Iversen, Imam Jagne, Martin Sherif (?). Obviously it's hard to pick the best fruit from the vine, but we are always looking at the vine (or part of it) - whether we are doing it as successfully as we could is always going to be debatable.

There's also been various transfers of British teenagers from "smaller" clubs first team squads (including Brendan Galloway, John Stones, Mason Holgate, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Jarrad Branthwaite). Perhaps the success we have had we these players suggests that this is a better market for Everton.

Andrew Keatley
36 Posted 21/06/2022 at 16:35:39
In terms of young first-team players from "smaller" clubs – I put smaller in inverted commas just because I hate it when people call Everton a smaller club than any other club – then maybe Malcolm Ebiowei would be the one I'd go for.

Derby are still in financial trouble, Rooney sits in their hot-seat, and signs suggest that Ebiowei might just be the real deal. Problem is that he's already being eyed up by other clubs and would likely cost upwards of £12 million.

Still, if Richarlison were to go, then Ebiowei looks as good a way to spend that money as any others I can think of.

Robert Tressell
37 Posted 21/06/2022 at 17:01:09
It's fair point Andrew.

Basically there's mix of things going on.

1. Bringing in largely local kids and developing them up the age groups. Eg. Tom Davies, who I think has been with us since he was 7 (or something like that). That should be the primary focus of the academy surely.

2. Picking up other academy cast offs. Eg Ellis Simms from Man City and what Burnley did with Dwight McNeil from Man Utd. There will be good players available but not quite the superstars Rich 6 academies are really after.

3. Pinching potential superstars from lower academies. Eg Thierry Small from WBA and what City did with Sancho (from Wycombe) and the RS did with Sterling (from QPR). Okoronkwo might be a good example here too.

4. Foreign imports. Eg Jagne, Iversen and Kristensen for us. Or for other clubs players like Pogba, Pique, Fabregas etc etc.

5. Pinching first team teenagers from the lower leagues. Eg Stones, Holgate, DCL, Branthwaite etc.

You're right we've done pretty well with that last category. But these players aren't really bought for the academy as they're already knocking on the door of the first team.

It's very mixed in the other categories though. The foreign markets don't appear to be bearing any fruit at all. That looks a genuinely weakness rather than just being hit and miss.

But for me, when we're talking about the academy, we're talking about the first category - because that's the thing that the structure / ethos etc is built for and revolves around.

The recruitment feeds into but is different to the core elements of the academy.

Tony Abrahams
38 Posted 21/06/2022 at 17:13:54
I think it's all about coaching because it's obvious that loads of kids over the years connected to Everton's Academy, have had loads of talent, and this is something I've seen with my own eyes.
Phill Thompson
39 Posted 21/06/2022 at 17:20:10
Andrew #35,

Danny's post #30 hints briefly at how Chelsea “revamped” themselves. I don't think there's any question in my mind that while Everton “may adopt a similar policy”, they are streets ahead of us.

My point may become lost; in my view, only when Moshiri and the Board get fully behind our Academy will it truly become successful.

Your list of 16+ players covers five years, yet none have made a first-team appearance. You may be right about it being better getting players from smaller clubs, but that too is hit and miss, eg, Dennis Adeniran, Josh Bowler, Bassala Sambou.

I will repeat that I am optimistic for the coming season; but, then again, I always am….

Ian Bennett
40 Posted 21/06/2022 at 17:37:49
The Chelsea model still is paying relatively top dollar for these players in wages, agent fees, and compensation etc.

Don't kid yourself they are coming in for what verton pay our youngsters.

We would need to increase the spend considerably to attract the best young talent, and then hope you get players, loan fees and player sales.

It's not a straight-forward change.

Paul Kossoff
41 Posted 21/06/2022 at 17:39:31
I read this without my glasses... I thought it said "Great Tosser, Everton's new academy director."

Nothing has changed then, my initial thought.

Tony Abrahams
42 Posted 21/06/2022 at 17:59:06
Very good point, Ian B. They do pay top dollar, but the thing that stands out is how much time and effort they also appear to put into coaching these kids in the correct manner.

When they go to take their second touch, the ball is already out of their feet, and they usually have their head up, ready to play, because they all look very comfortable on the ball.

This might be easier to coach into the most talented kids, but something tells me it's how you're coached? And I think this is something that stands out with a lot of young players who have come through the Chelsea academy, imo.

Tony Abrahams
43 Posted 21/06/2022 at 18:12:49
It’s an interesting debate, (to me at least) thinking about how young players are coached. The city of Liverpool, or maybe the borough of Merseyside, has produced some incredible footballers, down the years, but not many of them are what I would consider silky players? (I’m sure others will name quite a few though?)

McMahon & Reid, Gerard & Rooney, they were all genuine top class footballers, and none of them took a backward step, because they were obviously products of their environment, maybe?

I could go on, maybe McManaman and Jeffers, were a little bit of a different type of footballer for scousers, but maybe the academy’s are also coaching natural aggression out of these young players? Which is just plain wrong imo.

Danny O’Neill
44 Posted 21/06/2022 at 18:20:52
Mike, I guess that's me with my coaching head on. I just want to see young players given the opportunity to be developed, regardless of where they end up. I often think that's the problem in the English game at youth level. We forget about coaching and development. That should be the driver for a youth / academy coach.

Ultimately, that's what we do it for. Or certainly what I did it for.

Apologies for dropping my blue glasses for a minute. I got nothing other than joy watching my lads enjoy football. I shouted at them, disciplined them, encouraged them and put an arm around them when needed. All of them from very diverse, different and, many of them, from difficult backgrounds.

I literally paid for them out of my own pocket because ridiculously, they got fined for bookings. We fine kids who come from backgrounds where they can't pay their bus fare, let alone a £10 fine for a yellow card? What is that about? And we had to pay a fee to the local FA to allow them play. Talk about football being a business. It starts at grass roots. An annual fee to receive the privilege of playing on a mud field and receive an FA Respect banner in return.

I tried my best to educate them and let them express themselves on the field. Countless Sunday mornings driving to pick them up as their parents didn't even know they were playing and they didn't have bus or tube fare. My car was often an overcrowded multi-cultural football taxi.

And sometimes it needed a bit of tough love, but they knew me. Also, I could mix it with them on the pitch. I still had it!!!

It wasn't about that though. It was very rewarding watching them grow as footballers and into young men.

Phill, you watch the youngsters more than me, so are much more qualified. It appears to me that a revamp is needed because we haven't really been producing, which is partly down to scouting but also coaching. You can unlock talent and potential with good coaching and mentoring. I'm not sure we've had that in recent years.

I've made clear my opinion. Invest in grass roots; not the locked behind closed doors sanctuary and bubble of Finch Farm. And, as you say, it took Chelsea several years, but they appear to be seeing the benefit of that strategy now.

The transfer market is the quick fix. But if you are going to invest youth, it will take a number of years for that to come to fruition.

Apologies. I can go on about this subject and bore everyone all night. I'll get my coat.

Ian Bennett
45 Posted 21/06/2022 at 18:31:15
The likes of Chelsea and City are scouting 10 to 50 times what we are. Perhaps more. They have the best of everything - scouting, coaching, conditioning, facilities etc etc etc.

City are picking up the cream of the talent in the North, UK and overseas. Previously they'd pick up players from certain areas of Manchester.

Everton are picking up the players the likes of Man City and Liverpool don't want, from 10 years upwards.

They can offer top wages, private school fees, etc etc etc. If you're a parent of a 12-year-old prodigy in Liverpool, Man City are going to make you the best offer you'll see.

Best team, best set up, top dollar. The first team is no different to youth set up.

Tony Abrahams
46 Posted 21/06/2022 at 18:47:05
I have had in my head, a certain way to counteract against what the likes of Chelsea and Man City, are doing Ian, and think it would just take a little bit of innovation and total professionalism, to help us get a little bit closer to what they are achieving, “if it is” just because they’re prepared to spend the most money?

A lot of my idea would actually be forged by education, and I think any academy looking to succeed and gain a much greater long term reputation, would be advised to go down this road imo.

Most young footballers, only think about making the grade, (money is definitely secondary to at least a conservative 90% of these kids) but very few actually succeed. Build up a reputation for really schooling these kids, both on and off the pitch, and I’m certain that this type of reputation would massively help any club, over the longer term?

I’ve even got an idea of how to pay for it, which might seem laughable to many, and boring to everyone else, so I’ll leave it there for now!

Robert Tressell
47 Posted 21/06/2022 at 18:56:12
Ian, there will always be a long list of reasons why it's easier not to bother.

Surely that misses the point though.

The point is really that our biggest disadvantage is in the proper transfer market. We really cannot compete there.

The academy is one of the ways in which we can level the playing field to some extent. Even with a much heavier investment, it is still lower cost than exorbitant fees on players like Bolasie, Schneiderlin etc too.

Every club faces challenges. The successful ones have found innovative ways to get around those challenges.

Robert Tressell
48 Posted 21/06/2022 at 18:57:26
Tony, while I was tapping away with my point - you have answered it.
Danny O’Neill
49 Posted 21/06/2022 at 19:02:22
That's my issue Ian. How are they picking up the best? Are they the best? How can you tell at 10 years old?

At 10 years old, you don't know if they are the best or if they're going to make it. You don't even know at 16 or 18. There are very few like Rooney or Foden out there.

For every one of them, there's more than one player who will develop later than those that get ignored at age 10.

Invest in grassroots. Coach and develop. Otherwise ,you're just relying on a fingers-crossed and hope for the best that some wonder kid will come along that just relies on natural ability.

I always use him as an example. Had Ross Barkley been coached properly, he would have fulfilled his ability.

He wasn't coached in my opinion. Just throw him on the pitch to do his thing. Lazy coaching.

Tony Abrahams
50 Posted 21/06/2022 at 19:11:07
I'm glad you asked that question, Mike, especially because I knew that Danny would give an honest and genuine answer. If the FA or the government stepped in, and changed the rules, then maybe football could show a lot more innovation with regards getting out and coaching more young footballers, instead of having a closed shop, and destroying a lot more young footballers than they are actually producing.
Tony Abrahams
51 Posted 21/06/2022 at 19:15:11
My own view is that football changes dramatically at around 14 years of age, and that’s when clubs, should be signing kids on. Take them on full time at 14. Coach them and educate them, and if they are not good enough to be footballers, help them succeed in another way of life.
Jerome Shields
52 Posted 21/06/2022 at 19:51:37
Ian #45,

You have probably given the most accurate difference between Everton and the recruitment of top Clubs. I seem to remember Gerard McLean and his frustrating efforts at education at Everton.

Dave Abrahams
53 Posted 21/06/2022 at 20:05:39
Michael (25), I was actually trying to compliment you with the Kier Starmer title, I was thinking of the barrister side to him where he watches everything his clients say and keeps a note of them.

As for Kier Starmer the politician he hasn't got that bit of character and natural wit to put his opponents on the back foot otherwise he would be wiping the floor with his debates in Parliament against that ignorant, fool and verbal bully, Johnson.

Phill Thompson
54 Posted 21/06/2022 at 20:35:25
Tony #46, a few years ago, Man City were attracting youngsters by guaranteeing them private schooling, up to A-level, I think. Even if they weren't given a pro contract, their education was guaranteed.

We have/had a tie-up with Wade Deacon School, Widnes for a number of our youngsters. This info may be out of date now.

Tony Abrahams
55 Posted 21/06/2022 at 21:26:36
I’m not sure if they still use Wade Deacon, Phill, but that’s only half the measure, of what I’d be suggesting anyway.

I’d have a separate department at finch farm for classrooms, the foreign players would also be put straight into those classes learning English, or players might want to study, once they hit a certain age? especially because I’d be looking to find a lot of my funding from the first team squad anyway!

Maybe my idea is far fetched, but if I made it to be a top footballer, and had to give £100.000 a year towards a top academy, that had helped two of my mates who never made the grade, become good lawyers maybe, then that might also actually be something to be proud of, once you start learning a little bit more about life?

Justin Doone
56 Posted 21/06/2022 at 22:48:36

Academies can do a lot of good for children, communities and clubs and they all generally operate in a similar way.

Success helps breed success. Past decades saw first team success help academies attract top talent.

Liverpool, Man Utd, then Chelsea and now Man City. Success helped attract the top talent but LOTS of financial and other incentives also get used.

It makes me laugh that we got done for its a few years ago. It shows our incompetence and bad judgement because it appears the young player never developed the expected talent.

A lot of luck is needed for all player acquisitions and development no matter how talented and promising players and coaches are.

Don Alexander
57 Posted 21/06/2022 at 22:53:18
I went to Wade Deacon in the 60's - football on the curriculum was a non-starter! More of less weekly slipperings helped make me the man I am though, especially in my ensuing career as "Lasham Lulu" in Soho.
Rob Dolby
58 Posted 21/06/2022 at 22:59:04
Danny, I disagree over your assessment of Barklay. He had top coaching and players around him at Everton. He has had coaching for 3 years from the current world champions and struggles to get onto their bench nevermind the team. He reached his peak under Roberto sad but true.

I do think most football academy practices border on child abuse rather than training and technique. The child merry go round starts at an early age with club's hoovering up young kids then spitting them out at a later date. Its a matter for the government to sort out as clubs and the FA probably don't think that they are doing any harm with their scattergun approach.

Countries like Uruguay, Holland, Iceland have small populations but regularly produce players that play for top clubs around the world. Why is that? Is it because they don't have the money to do little other than develop their own talent? Maybe a coach exchange scheme to club's in places like Uruguay Holland and the likes may enlighten our coach education.

Players do develop at different ages. Baines was a failed rejected winger but converted to full back and we bought him back for 6m. Jags was a failed rejected striker but we bought a quality centre half back for 4m. That's 10m because coaches decided 2 players couldn't be developed into other positions. Gary Stevens was converted into a full back within the club.

The obsession to buy off the shelf players is counter productive to developing talent. As a club we should at least be providing 2 first team full backs from the academy.

Mike Gaynes
59 Posted 21/06/2022 at 23:55:49
Danny and Tony, thanks for those thoughtful responses. And Danny, thank you for your commitment to true youth coaching.

The upshot, however, is that a club-based academy, no matter how well-conceived and run or the quality of the education provided, is a business venture. A loss leader, perhaps, but still a business venture, one which must ultimately benefit the club to survive. And that means that kids who might otherwise succeed will be discarded by the system.

The kind of grassroots commitment you demonstrated, Danny, may be better for making sure every kid gets an equal chance, but eliminating revenue generation as an incentive also means the coaching will less likely be at the level needed to craft these kids into top professionals (nothing about your coaching skills implied, sir!) because the best coaches want to be paid for their work.

The ultimate decider is the incentive behind the academy program. Is the idea to produce the maximum number of good footballers, or potential stars for the club? With Everton and most professional clubs, the answer would be the latter.

Aside from that, I've gotta side with Rob on Barkley. He had the best coaching available in representing his country at every youth level from U-16 to U-21 and working under pros who proved their ability to maximize young talent, like Moyes (Coleman, Jags, Baines etc.). Whatever went wrong with Barkley was some combination of the physical (injuries) and the mental in my opinion. Not lack of proper coaching.

Danny O’Neill
60 Posted 22/06/2022 at 05:31:13
Thanks Rob / Mike,

I know my level but I'll go and console myself!!

I'll disagree on Barkley with you both if that's okay. I obviously don't know, but it just strikes me he wasn't coached properly even though, as you both do rightly point out, he's had access to the best coaches.

I guess where I'm coming from is in his formative years and youth, not when he'd broken into the first team at Everton or moved to Chelsea. I'm talking about when he was 12 or 14. In layman's terms, I suspect because he was bigger, quicker and smashing it, he wasn't pulled up to correct some of his faults, because at that level and age groups he probably looked like a world beater doing his thing, so was left to it.

There comes a point where a player goes beyond being able to be improved in my opinion so it's important to catch that when they're young. In the bigger scheme of things. Obviously you can make small changes to their game, as we saw with Calvert-Lewin. But it's important to coach it when they're young and still learning. You can't teach an old dog new tricks as the saying goes.

I'll use another less glamorous example. James McCarthy. Looked promising initially, but even taking injury into consideration, just did not improve or progress as a player in my opinion.

Wade Deacon. A cultural melting pot of Widnesian Rugby League fans and kids from Speke, Halewood and Hale!!

Tony Abrahams
61 Posted 22/06/2022 at 08:12:00
I’d argue McCarthy was always going to play the same way Danny, and his type of role would have only been improved or maybe appreciated more, if you put better players around him, in a similar way that has helped players like Jordan Henderson? (He also had bad luck with injuries)

I agree with your assessment of Barkley, I watched him “strolling around” for Chelsea, and although he had more talent than any Everton midfielder, he just never knew when to run without the ball, or try and force the pace when it was needed, although this is just my opinion, mate.

The only way with kids like this is to put them into the higher age groups, but maybe this happened with Ross?

Robert Tressell
62 Posted 22/06/2022 at 08:33:56
I'm not sure coaching was the issue with Barkley either. There are lots of players like that from South America and Netherlands etc. Very good technically but make poor decisions, struggle to operate within a team structure etc. The flaw is in their heads - so can be helped with coaching but not eliminated.

The issue in the UK is that we produce far fewer technical / creative players than we should, so when a player like Barkley comes along he really stands out. Brazil produces tonnes of Barkleys and they end up being mercurial talents at CSKA Moscow or mid table Italian sides etc performing on and off for a career.

What the coaching should be doing is replacing street football as a way to deliver a higher volume of technical players (again, as per Brazil where futsal does this now that the streets are too dangerous a place to hone football skills)

Brian Harrison
63 Posted 22/06/2022 at 09:14:01
Talking of Barkley, I have seen many many kids who at 14 and 16 and 18 were the best of their group but they never progressed as the years went by. The truly great players are those who not only are the best of their group but players who keep on improving. The likes of Charlton, Greaves, Moore, Best, Law were all great players at every age but they had that desire to be the very best, and that was never in Barkley's make-up.

To be fair, the lad had that awful triple leg break at 17 and that certainly set him back. But I think as a teenager he didn't have to try very hard to be the best and he just relied on his natural talent. As he moved up to the senior level, he wasn't the roaring success he had been as a teenager. Still very talented, but you always felt there was just that killer instinct missing from his game.

Ray Smith
64 Posted 22/06/2022 at 09:19:37
If we are going to lose Richarlison, and it appears to me odds-on, I'd rather he went to Chelsea, where the likelihood of players Frank already has a considerable knowledge of, may be made available, either permanent or loan deals. This IMO outweighs trying to deal or negotiate with Levy.

There is however one fly in the ointment: Bill Kenwright poking his nose in. Both Chelsea and Spurs are a stone's throw away from his offices in London.

I can hear him now: “Come to my office and we can negotiate from there, it saves the travelling time, or I'll come to you. Farhad won't mind, and I can negotiate on his behalf, because I've been negotiating deals for Everton for donkey's years.”

Laughable maybe, but I can't help feeling he will stick his oar in!!! Happy to be proved wrong.

Danny O’Neill
65 Posted 22/06/2022 at 09:39:53
Some great points on this thread.

Brian, that's a fair shout. That awful injury will most definitely have had an impact.

Tony, that's a good call on the McCarthy - Henderson comparison. You're right; a seemingly average player can go onto lift the league title and Champions League if surrounded by better quality. Let's be honest, who would ever have predicted that about Henderson? I wouldn't have.

Robert, you make two very good points. The fact we still don't produce enough technically good players even though we've got slightly better. And decision making. The latter links to one of Tony's points. You should do most of your work and running off the ball, not with it in my opinion.

Be that making space, running into a channel to create an opportunity for a team mate or pressing the opposition to get the ball back and turn the game over. Effect the play.

I guess that's where I feel Ross wasn't coached properly (not that he wasn't coached). Even now, he tends to play like the 10 year old who wants to dribble past everyone with the ball at his feet. Brief moments of brilliance that he can produce out shadowed by more frequent moments of frustration because he didn't release.

See it. Play it. Move.

I've probably mentioned before Robert, but my favourite coaching practice was Brazilian Grids. Retention of possession and high intensity pressing in one session. And all done in a small space.

Good discussion all.

Brian Harrison
66 Posted 22/06/2022 at 09:40:39
I just read that while Brands was our DOF we were the 4th worst at producing players from our academy to the first team, this is based on players who had at least 3 years at the academy between the ages of 15-21.

The 3 Premier League teams who were worse than that were Watford, Brentford and Wolves. Just remind me again of were Prosser has come from???

Justin Doone
67 Posted 22/06/2022 at 11:31:03
It's often a case of different horses for different courses.

Coaches, players, Teachers, pupils.
Same subjects, same levels, different explanations, different understanding.

Outcome is different enjoyment levels and wanting to take ownership and responsibility for their work based on what they enjoy, understand and believe they can do well at.

Justin Doone
68 Posted 22/06/2022 at 11:47:55
I'm not sure Brands can be blamed for not producing talented academy player's within 3 years and there lies the problem.

Long term impact can take 5 years not 1 or 2, which is a football problem.

Only one part of the development 'lottery' but I like the suggestion of bringing in better (the best) youth coaches for the technical skills whilst keeping football about fun especially for under 14s.

Netherlands, Uruguay, Spain, Portugal doesn't matter where from but I had hoped Brands was to implement this with a few coaches and young players to act as 'the new approach'.

But I can honestly say, no one on here really knows what Brands full priorities and responsibilities were just as I don't understand the new set-up.

Rob Dolby
69 Posted 22/06/2022 at 12:32:19
Justin 68.

I strongly suspect that the faces will change but the result will remain the same. Just doing the same as other clubs isn't going to change anything. It will keep things as they are.

Unless we take a gamble on an Arsene Wenger type who can deliver innovative development methods we will forever be playing catch up.

Justin Doone
70 Posted 22/06/2022 at 13:56:17
I know of a high level local coach who could be of benefit to our football philosophy, development and/or recruitment called Rafa Benitiz.

Would he make a good football director for EFC?

Helmet to the ready!

Will Mabon
71 Posted 22/06/2022 at 15:12:04
Justin, nice try but few will bite.
Peter Neilson
72 Posted 22/06/2022 at 16:17:34
Brian (66) and of the three other clubs listed Watford don't have a Category 1 Academy and Brentford don't have one at all. Makes it even worse.

We're also not in the top 50 European clubs for academy sales 2015-2021 for players with 3 years in the academy aged 15-21. Much work to be done.

Ian Linn
73 Posted 24/06/2022 at 05:08:12
Funny, if we had finished 7th or 8th this season, no-one would give a shit about the academy.
Danny O’Neill
74 Posted 24/06/2022 at 11:45:12
I would and do Ian. And the grass roots below it, but I won't go off on one of my repetitive, probably boring renditions of how I don't believe we maximise what is on our doorstep, let alone what we introduce into the academy from other clubs and countries.
Tony Abrahams
75 Posted 24/06/2022 at 12:15:48
That’s why Kenwright was so successful with David Moyes, because it seems like a lot of Evertonians were very happy just being in the top seven imo, Ian L.

Loads would bite your hands off for such lofty heights, but I’m more concerned about the biggest number in the clubs history, which is unfortunately getting bigger every year.

Tommy Carter
76 Posted 24/06/2022 at 12:51:22
@72

The reason for that is simple. The club simply hang on to players for too long in the massively insecure hope that they won’t let a player slip through the net.

Players like Pennington and Kenny etc who had plenty of opportunity to show their worth were simply held on to for far too long.

We could’ve got £3m for Kenny after his Schalke 04 loan. But no, the club have lost him on a free this summer after it being abundantly clear in his many appearances for Everton and the season in Germany, that he simply wasn’t premier league standard.

Mike Gaynes
77 Posted 24/06/2022 at 13:41:41
Tommy, how do you know we could have sold Kenny to Schalke? You can't sell a player without his consent, and Schalke was a disaster area where JJK was unlikely to want to stay, especially after Wagner was sacked.

If what the player wants is to stay and see out his contract, there may not be much the club can do about it.

Tommy Carter
78 Posted 24/06/2022 at 14:14:38
@ Mike

I didn’t suggest we could sell him to Schalke. Not at all. But that we could’ve sold him for £3m as that is my conservative estimate of his transfer value after having played a decent chunk of a Bundesliga season.

If the club had made it clear that they were selling him, and he had little prospect of a first team place then I’m confident he’d have left.

In his sight we know he almost certainly would have as he’s rejected the opportunity to extend his stay as a bit part player this summer.

£3m down the toilet. What’s he achieved at Everton since he left Schalke. What development has he made? The club and Kenny have both lost here. A lose / lose situation.

The madness will be if we keep repeating this mistake.

There needs to be a ruthlessness. Ellis Simms is a great example right this moment. His stock is higher after a decent spell at Hearts following a decent enough spell at Blackpool. He’s at the point where Everton right now need to decide - will he breakthrough next season. Not the season after or 2 seasons time. Right now. This August. Is he in contention?

If the answer is no - for me he must be sold. Again £3m at a conservative estimate in transfer fee. It’s good business.

Danny O’Neill
80 Posted 26/06/2022 at 13:06:59
Schalke were never going to buy Jonjoe.

They were in the financial freefall that led to their relegation.

Fortunately they were able to come straight back. But they achieved that from a total reset. No way were they going to be able to spend good money on a half-decent right-back who done okay, was popular with the supporters, but didn't set the world alight.

And as many of you know, I have a soft spot for Jonjoe.

Tony Abrahams
81 Posted 26/06/2022 at 13:11:27
Tommy @76, they could have got £5 million for Kenny by selling him to Burnley 18 months ago but Brands wanted a bit more and Jonjoe ended up going to Celtic on loan.
Dave Abrahams
82 Posted 26/06/2022 at 13:52:58
Tommy (78),

“The club and Kenny have both lost here”

Jonjoe might have lost in the sense that he loved playing for the Blues but financially I believe he's got a lot more than Everton offered him and a 3-year contract.

Danny Baily
83 Posted 26/06/2022 at 14:35:03
I don't think anyone has lost out. Kenny would have commanded a very modest fee, at best. We needed the squad depth so he had the opportunity to hang around a little longer than his talent justified.

I'm relieved he decided to move on. I can see the logic in offering him an extension given the financial constraints we're working under, but he simply wasn't good enough for the Premier League.

Paul Hughes
84 Posted 26/06/2022 at 15:35:52
Phil (54), you are correct about City. For the past 10 years or so, they have had an arrangement with a local private school. Their academy kids are taught at the school, with a modified timetable, and then transferred over to the Etihad complex in the afternoon. Upshot is that the 95% who don’t make it, at least come out with a fistful of GCSE’s. Suits the school too, as they get some guaranteed income from the bottomless pit of City funds.

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