Everton is a club with a proud history and a trophy cabinet which has held more than its fair share of silverware over the years. Like many clubs, there may be barren periods without a trophy but Toffees’ fans are rightly proud of the success that their team has achieved.
In terms of personnel, that success is often built on a healthy platform of home grown players. Big money signings, from the UK and overseas, come in to enhance that squad but the youth academy has been a vital part of Everton FC for over 30 years.
More than 50 full time staff oversee hundreds of young players. Not everyone can make it of course but, just how efficient has the academy been in its time?
The Current Picture
The current squad at Goodison Park contains relatively few academy graduates. Of those playing on a more regular basis, Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny are the standout names. From the fringes of the team, we can include Ellis Simms and Anthony Gordon who have yet to make much of an impression at Everton.
In order to achieve their aims, the club are relying more heavily on outside transfers than they may have done in the past. The goal for manager Rafa Benitez and his men is to firstly make it into the top six and claim a European place. From there, Champions League football will be a target for the owners in future years.
After a slow start to the 2021/22 season, those aims look relatively distant right now. Among the favourites to secure a top six finish at the end of the season are sides such as Chelsea, Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs.
West Ham United, Arsenal and Spurs follow while the bookies have Everton down among the outside bets. The Toffees are out to the sort of price where punters may be reluctant to part with their own money, but the good news is that there are free betting offers to browse which could help in that respect.
Perhaps the manager needs to reconsider the balance of the squad, especially if he looks at some of the talent that has passed through Everton’s Youth Academy.
The Golden Years
The most famous graduate of the Goodison Academy is undoubtedly Wayne Rooney. A prolific striker at youth team level, Rooney made his debut for Everton’s first team at the age of just sixteen.
In his first spell with the club, Rooney would start to develop into one of the most prolific strikers in world football. Unfortunately, that development was taken on by Manchester United who acquired his services in 2004.
Eventually, the player would break the record for international goals for the full England side but, while he returned to Goodison in 2017, Rooney’s best years were spent elsewhere.
A rather more loyal servant was Tony Hibbert who spent his entire senior career with Everton. After making his debut in March 2001, he went on to make 328 senior appearances for the club.
If you discount two brief loan spells, Leon Osman was another one club man. His appearance tally edges past Tony Hibbert with Osman playing on 433 occasions for the Toffees.
Other notable players to have passed through the youth ranks here include Francis Jeffers, James Vaughan, Jack Rodwell, Danny Cadamarteri and Richard Dunne. So, how much have Everton actually benefited from their services?
Weighing up the Pros and Cons
Of those who have appeared for the senior side, Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert are rarities. While many thousands fail to make the grade, those that do progress to the first team can always be a transfer target for other sides.
Some, like Cadamarteri, could be seen as surplus to requirements. In the case of Wayne Rooney, he highlights both the positives and negatives of academies in the Premier League.
Clearly Everton fans wanted their star striker to stay but Manchester United simply offered more money and more of an opportunity to win major silverware. Looking back, neutrals would argue that the player made the right call, but this wasn’t how Toffees supporters viewed the situation at the time.
The potential upside concerns the transfer fee and whether the club can adequately rebuild. The deal to take Rooney was worth some £25 million and it was then down to Everton to invest that wisely.
Clearly there will always be that risk, but Wayne Rooney was a rare example. Superstars will only come along once in a while, but academies can keep churning out effective professional footballers. Everton have a sound history in this respect and perhaps there should be more home-grown players in the current squad.
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