Roberto Martinez, upon taking over the helm at Goodison Park, was full of praise for the young players currently being developed at Everton. Describing the Blues’ home-grown talent as ‘phenomenal’, Martinez has turned media attentions towards the Everton academy which has produced some household names in recent years.
“Any football club – it doesn’t matter where you are looking – relies on the home-grown talent”, the Spaniard is quoted on the club’s official website, and it will be a quote that will be kept in mind by fans when Martinez’s Everton tenure officially kicks off.
David Moyes made similar observations of Everton’s youngsters when he took the reigns in 2002 and the mantra that Moyes ‘gives youth a chance’ has tagged itself to the Scot since. Of course the name Wayne Rooney had been on the lips of all concerned at Everton long before Moyes’ arrival and the former Preston boss did indeed give the home grown talent a platform for success. Rooney flourished, but so did Moyes’ reputation for bringing youth through whilst keeping a protective arm firmly around his precious gems.
James Vaughan became the youngest player to score for Everton in the top-flight as well as the youngest player to score in the Premier League at 16 years and 271 days. Victor Anichebe made his debut as a 17 year old, Jose Baxter- tipped for a glittering career- played for his beloved club as a 16 year old in 2008 and Jake Bidwell has just been sold to Brentford, taking with him the title of Everton’s youngest ever player in European competition. Nick Chadwick and Peter Clarke looked to be developing well, the former scoring in a number of Moyes’ initial games in charge, but were quickly shunned in favour of older-heads.
Whilst some of these players were given more opportunities than others under Moyes, neither have set the world alight in the way they were initially tipped to do. Anichebe may yet have the chance to change that at Everton, but the majority opinion seems to be that the problem lies with the player’s attitude and mentality rather than how many minutes he’s had on the pitch.
Jack Rodwell, it could be argued, has made a success of himself with a move to Manchester City but again if you asked the average fan on the Gwladys Street, it is thought that the Birkdale born midfielder hadn’t progressed as well as we’d been expecting.
Most of the home-grown talent we’ve seen under Moyes have enjoyed a fleeting glimpse of Goodison stardom before being whisked away on loan, sold on or worse yet banished back to the reserves. Even among the talent that has been scouted and brought in from overseas (Magaye Gueye, Apostolos Vellios, Bjarni Viddarson, Anderson de Silva,) only Seamus Coleman and Marouane Fellaini have succeeded in making more than a handful of appearances before being shipped back to their country of origin.
So whilst there have been no shortage of young players tried under the Moyes stewardship, there aren’t too many that have thrived at the very top. Of course there are many factors to take into consideration as to why a player may or may not ‘make it’, and in every instance the blame of an individuals failure won’t lie at the feet of the manager. What exactly constitutes failure? Many of these players are still playing competitive football in England or in other countries.
But what was initially under Moyes a fresh philosophy of youth-replacing-the-old that all fans were keen to see implemented, had sadly reversed itself by the end of his Everton tenure. Not least in his final season in charge. When fans were crying out for a fresh injection of youthful vigour, Moyes seemed to opt for the tired knees of experience. Phil Neville, Leon Osman, Sylvain Distin, even Thomas Hitzlsperger were all preferred at times when the first XI were in desperate need of rest, and more and more often our thin squad was stretched ever thinner as Ross Barkley, Vellios, Shane Duffy, Luke Garbutt and John Lundstram were all ignored.
Martinez has praised the youth-system currently in place at Everton and has made a clear statement of intent to utilise and develop the young talent at the club. And if we take a short look back to the 2012/13 season, we’ll see that the opportunities were there for the up and coming talents. Wigan used 34 players in all competitions and two players to experience a significant amount of playing time were Callum McManaman and James McCarthy, the latter starting an impressive 41 times for the club, a good return for a 22 year old. Less used but used nonetheless were the likes of Ryo Miyaichi, Joel Robles, Fraser Fyvie and Roman Golobart, all under 23.
Not all of these players have set the Premier League alight, and neither has it been suggested that they will, but the important fact is that they’ve all been afforded playing time, indicating that Martinez has (and this is just within the last year) looked to youth to invigorate his team.
Evertonians are well aware of the talent in the academies that are hoping to make an impression under the new manager. And it would seem that Martinez will not ignore the pleas of Barkley, Duffy, Vellios, Luke Garbutt, John Lundstram, John Stones and Matthew Kennedy, all of whom will be hopeful that next year could well be their year in a Blue shirt.