David Unsworth and Leighton Baines – two of the finest defenders in Everton’s history – are taking on new, prominent roles at the Club’s USM Finch Farm training Headquarters.
As part of a number of exciting changes to the Club’s player development structure, Unsworth has taken on an expanded role, becoming the Club’s new Director of Academy, whilst Baines re-joins the Club in a new coaching role just weeks after announcing his retirement as a player.
Unsworth – who was inducted as a Club Giant in 2019 to join greats such as Dixie Dean, Alan Ball and Neville Southall – will take on his position whilst continuing as manager of the Club’s Under-23s.
The additional remit for Unsworth will allow him to bring all of the teams below the senior men’s squad into one management structure, providing a smoother pathway through the Academy and into the First Team.
Supporting Unsworth as part of the structural changes will be Baines, who becomes the Club’s first Professional Development Coach. Baines, who played 420 times for the Blues, will work with young first-team players – as well as the Under-23s and Under-18s. He will support and assist on all matters relating to a young footballer’s professional development on and off the field – whilst instilling a clear understanding of what it means to be a part of the fabric of Everton. He will work with Director of Football Marcel Brands and manager Carlo Ancelotti – as well as Unsworth and U18 Coach Paul Tait – to ensure each transition phase for the Club’s young professionals is managed effectively for both the players and the Club.
Joel Waldron moves from his position as Academy Director to become the Academy’s Chief Operating Officer and will continue to manage the operations relating to the Academy at USM Finch Farm.
Unsworth said: “I’m honoured and privileged by this opportunity and hugely excited by the opportunities this role will provide. This Club is in my blood – and youth development is in this Club’s DNA. Being able to work with the Academy Staff to shape the development pathway for the young players in the Academy is incredibly exciting. I know I speak for us all when I say there is no prouder moment than seeing young, homegrown progress into our Under-23s and, ultimately, into our First Team.
“It is absolutely brilliant to have Leighton join us in this new and exciting role. Leighton has impressed us greatly in our discussions since he made his decision to retire from playing and we’re all thrilled to have him on board. He has tremendous recent experience which will help us ensure our young players are best-equipped to progress through each stage of their journey, both as players and as young men.”
Leighton Baines added: “I’m really pleased to be back and to be part of this exciting new structure. While our development pathway is already highly respected, it has been very clear to me that there is a shared ambition here to develop and improve this even further, and I’m hugely excited to have the opportunity to play a part in this.
“I feel proud and privileged that Carlo, Marcel, Denise and David all believe I can support them to achieve their ambitions – and just can’t wait to get started! ”
Director of Football, Marcel Brands, said: “David’s credentials as a coach are first-class and we all know this is matched by his passion for the Club. The Chief Executive and I have worked with him on this extension of his role and we all believe this will help ensure an even smoother route into the senior squad for our homegrown players.
“We are all committed to developing the very best local talent and are determined to maintain our position as one of the best player development programmes in football. Adding Leighton and his knowledge into that structure will be very valuable to us. He is taking up a new and important role which he has helped design based on his recent perspective and tremendous experience as a player.
“With David working closely alongside his coaching team, and with Joel Waldron continuing to manage our operations, we are confident the Academy is in very good hands.”
A proud Evertonian who enjoyed two spells as a player with the Blues, Unsworth has led the Club’s Under-23s to the Premier League 2 title twice – including the double-winning season of 2018/19 which also culminated in Premier League Cup glory. He was awarded the Talent Development Coach of the Year award in 2017, after his first Premier League 2 title with the Blues, at the UK Coaching Awards.
As a defender, he won the FA Cup under Joe Royle in 1995 and amassed more than 350 appearances for the Club, scoring 40 goals.
Leighton Baines joined Everton from Wigan Athletic in 2007 and went on to play more than 400 games for the Club he watched as a boy. His 348 Premier League appearances puts him third in the Blues’ all-time appearance list in the competition.
He was named Blues’ player of the season three times and on two occasions voted winner of the Club’s players’ player award. He was capped 30 times by England and represented his country at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Baines scored 39 goals for Everton – 29 in the Premier League – and added 52 top-flight assists.
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