Having just watched the Motherwell-Celtic match from the SPL which featured two prominent Evertonians on-loan turning out for the Fir Park based outfit, plus considering the development of the like of Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling in the last 12 months, is it time we ranked the Everton youth academy in the same bracket as some of the best in the country?
The pair at Motherwell which are being referred to is striker Lucas Jutkiewicz and goalkeeper John Ruddy. They both had excellent matches yesterday with Jutkiewicz bagging a goal and Ruddy performing heroics in goal to keep his side in the match until the final whistle. It’s not just this pair that has caught the eye, indeed there is an argument to say that their inability to force their way into the first team is a reflection on their perceived potential in the eyes of the Everton management. Yet on the performance against Celtic, who further consolidated their position at the top of the SPL thanks to the three points gained in the match, there is plenty to suggest they both have a future at Everton.
At this current time there can’t be too many clubs in Europe, let alone the English Premiership, that can boast as many talented youngsters on their books as Everton. Whilst not all have come through the youth development programme in place at Everton, John Ruddy actually arrived from Cambridge United and Lukas Jutkiewicz started with Swindon Town, many have such as Jack Rodwell and Jose Baxter and are now banging on the door of the senior side.
There are several academies within the Premiership with fine reputations for developing youngsters, with arguably the most prominent being located at Arsenal. However, whilst Arsene Wenger and his team undoubtedly develop many of the young players they acquire, many have already started their path to stardom at another club, such as Theo Walcott at Southampton or Aaron Ramsey who played for Cardiff. However, many such as forward Jose Baxter, described as a more complete player than Wayne Rooney at the same age, are genuine products of the Everton Academy.
Meanwhile over at Manchester United the main argument there is about how many of the youngsters actually progress to play a significant part of the senior side. The outstanding output of the nineties which featured the like of Beckham, the Nevilles, Butt et al has yet to be usurped in terms of success of streaming through into the main team. Furthermore although there are undoubtedly several talented youngsters on the books of Manchester United, such as Rafael and Fabio da Silva originally from Fluminense, many of them have been procured from other sides.
Indeed this habit of persuading youngsters from Italy, Spain and Brazil to come to England from an early age, not just from Manchester United, but also Arsenal and Chelsea, is causing an increasing stir on the continent and further afield. This is because the age at which a youngster can be given a professional contract is lower in England than in many European and South American countries. So English clubs can tempt youngsters to these shores and not be held liable for transfer fees that would apply if they had waited to purchase the same player when he had been given a professional contract at his original club. The most well-known example is the arrival of Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, who are still sore at the way the Gunners whisked him from under their noses, whilst Lazio still harbour something of a grudge at loosing Frederico Macheda to Manchester United more recently.
Everton, however, have certainly not exploited this route and therefore can claim with some justification to have the most productive youth academy in the country; not only in terms of success of raising their own youngsters without resorting to raiding other clubs, but also then getting them to a position of playing in the senior side.
It’s not just Everton that will benefit from the success their young side is reaping currently, but also England who will see a benefit. Jack Rodwell had an impressive summer in the England U21 side that reached the final in Sweden, whilst Dan Gosling featured prominently in the U-19 team that also finished as runners-up against hosts Ukraine.
The Goodison Park based team therefore deserve much credit for the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes, especially Ray Hall the Academy Manager, in raising some very fine young players some of whom are now very much considered part of the first team such as Dan Gosling and some such as James Vaughan and the Motherwell pair who are gaining valuable experience with other teams. With such a broad and successful output Everton certainly deserve to rank alongside the like of Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premiership in terms of their youth academy production.
Posted by Walter Townsend on Sunday, 13th December 2009