Thursday, 15 July 2010
I don’t know where Everton would be without its excellent youth Academy.
Ray Hall and his staff deserve enormous credit for the fantastic job they have done over the past 20 years, producing some of the country’s best young talent.
I know many people talk about the West Ham Academy and the ‘golden’ generation of players at Manchester United, but you would be hard pressed to find a youth set up that has consistently produced quality young players like Everton’s.
If you think over the past 15 years we have had the likes of Francis Jeffers, Michael Ball, Gavin McCann, Richard Dunne, Wayne Rooney, James Vaughan and Jack Rodwell, who have all gone on to achieve international honours at various levels.
The work of the Academy is especially important in today’s times of austerity. Everton, to put in bluntly, ‘aint got a pot to piss in’ and after shelling out a relatively modest £2million this summer Moyes says the barrel is already empty.
The past two years have seen the club sell before it has bought but with Moyes digging his heels in over the likes of Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta; it is unlikely a big name will be sacrificed once more to fund recruitment elsewhere.
Thankfully some of our academy graduates look likely to step up. First there is Jack Rodwell. The secret is well and truly out now about Rodwell after that magnificent goal against Manchester United in February but Toffees fans, especially those inside the club, knew about this kid for a long time.
In a time where the media are talking about a dearth of English talent to replace our aging failures in South Africa they are ignoring a player who could eclipse the lot of them.
The composure, poise and no little skill shown by Rodwell at such a young age is outstanding and even though I’m slightly biased I truly believe he is an England captain in the making.
Another player most none-Toffees may not have heard of is Seamus Coleman. The young Irishman signed from Sligo Rovers for £60,000 in January 2009 and had a debut to forget in a 4-0 drubbing by Benfica in the Europa League. However, a fantastic cameo appearance against Spurs in December (which earned him the man of the match award – it shows how bad the rest were!) quickly got the fans excited. Moyes did the right thing and gave him some lower league experience at Blackpool, where he helped the Seasiders earn promotion via the play-offs.
Now back in an Everton shirt he put in another decent performance in a pre-season friendly against Melbourne Heart. The youngster won a penalty early on for the Toffees before crossing for Jack Rodwell to convert from close range.
One of our key forms of attack last season was the linkup between Pienaar and Leighton Baines on the left. Now we have a kid who is just as adept at going forward in the right, giving us an exciting balance on the other flank.
There are rumours Blackpool want to take him back on loan but given his progress I think he is ready for the Toffees first team now.
And given the club’s track record, he could go a very long way.