On his appointment as Manager, Roberto Martinez indicated that the strength of the Everton Academy was one of the main factors that attracted him to the job. With the likes of Wayne Rooney and Jack Rodwell, two of the more recent graduates, playing for the current best two teams in the country, the pedigree of Everton’s Academy is renowned across Europe and with a crop of players looking to push on and into the Everton first team, does Roberto Martinez need to spend big, or do Everton already have the next generation on their books?
Everton have a tradition of producing players from within, and currently have 4 academy graduates as established members of the first team squad. Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert have just short of 600 Everton appearances between them, Victor Anichebe has become an important attacking player for the Blues and Ross Barkley, at the beginning of his career has the potential to be one of the best players ever produced by the club. In addition, the Championship and remainder of the Football league is scattered with ex Everton graduates, who failed to make the grade at Goodison Park but have successfully eked out a career in the professional game. But it is the future generation that has caught the imagination of Martinez, who in a recent interview with EvertonTV described the talent within the Academy as phenomenal.
“I do feel that the talent we have in our football club is phenomenal and we need to make sure that we help that talent to develop and reach the levels that the modern game needs.”
With the U20 World Cup about to get underway in Turkey, Everton were bursting with pride, when 5 of their current U21 Development squad were selected as part of the England squad for the tournament. John Stones, Luke Garbutt, John Lundstram, Ross Barkley and Chris Long have all made the trip to face the World’s finest, looking to enhance their burgeoning reputations. We have provided a more detailed look at the 5 in question, looking at their careers to date and their future prospects at Everton.
Stones is not a graduate of the Finch Farm Academy having only joined Everton in the January transfer window. He cost the Blues somewhere in the region of £1.5m, signing from Barnsley in a deadline day move. Ironically, Everton beat Roberto Martinez to the signature of Stones, with Wigan believing they had a deal tied up before the Toffees made a late move.
He made his debut for the Tykes as a 17-year-old, coming on as a second half substitute in a 4-0 defeat to Reading. He made the majority of his 24 appearances for Barnsley as a right back, and was seen by many as the best young defender in the Championship. He is equally as comfortable in the centre of the defence and at 6 feet 2 inches tall; it is in a more central position that he is expected to forge his career. Everton have high hopes for Stones and I wouldn’t be surprised if he made his first team debut during the coming season.
Another of the future generation to join Everton after receiving their initial footballing education elsewhere is Luke Garbutt. Everton signed Garbutt in controversial fashion from Leeds United and a bitter and public battle over the transfer fee was finally settled by a tribunal, with Everton paying £600,000 for the then 16-year-old. Having recently turned 20, Garbutt faces a crucial year in his professional development and he will be looking to establish himself as understudy to Leighton Baines.
Garbutt does have League experience having enjoyed a loan spell at Cheltenham during the 2011-12 season. Last year was interrupted by injury, but Garbutt did make his Everton debut, coming on as substitute to play in his favoured left back position against Leyton Orient in the League Cup. Garbutt is an athletic full back and is modelled in much the same way as Leighton Baines. He enjoys getting forward and is dangerous from set pieces, and has two professional goals to his name from his time on loan at Cheltenham.
Lundstram is a real exciting talent. A strong elegant midfield player, who is capable of covering significant ground and the Academy staff at Everton have high hopes that he will become an integral part of the Everton midfield in the future. He is an excellent passer of the football, but also enjoys a tackle.
Lundstram has regularly captained Everton through different age groups and it was no surprise when David Moyes sent him out on loan to gain first team experience at the end of last season. The loan spell could not have gone much better for Lundstram, who became a fixture in the Doncaster Rovers midfield as they went on to secure promotion and the League One title. Everton may let Lundstram return to Doncaster next season to further his development, but he will be looking to make the step up to the Everton first team squad in the next 18 months. At 19-years-of-age, time is on his side, but he is sure to want to make an impact on Martinez during the upcoming pre-season campaign.
There is not much to say about Ross Barkley that every Evertonian doesn’t already know. Strong, tall and athletic, Ross Barkley has it all. Incredibly gifted on the ball and excellent vision, Barkley will be looking to become an Everton regular under the guidance of Martinez. Destined to play centrally, Barkley will probably be best served operating just behind the central striker at the moment, thus removing an element of responsibility he has struggled with in a more defensive role.
The big teams will be watching Barkley’s development closely, but Everton will be hoping that the boyhood Evertonian sees his long-term future at the club. Ross Barkley can be anything he wants to be and should have his ambition set on becoming a regular England international.
Not many will have heard about Chris Long, but the centre forward has quietly gone about creating a huge reputation for himself with Kevin Sheedy and Duncan Ferguson gently nurturing his incredible talents. Indeed, Long himself credits Ferguson as one of the biggest influences on his development. Speaking to evertonfc.com he said: “It is incredible to have Duncan Ferguson as a coach. Working with him every day on the training field has really improved my game” Those improvements have not only earned him a call up to the England U20 set-up, but he was also awarded the Everton Academy Player of the Year for 2012-13.
Long signed for Everton at the age of 5, and is quick and lethal in front of goal. He has likened his own style to that of Michael Owen and at just 18 scored on his debut for the England u20 side against Uruguay.
If you would like to catch a glimpse of the young Everton boys in action over the summer, tune in to watch the FIFA u20 World Cup, which is live on Eurosport starting on 2nd July.