There are more stories today about young Everton players who are either currently on loan or about to go away to another club for a season or more.
This raises the issue to me of why the club keep on loaning out so many of these players rather than give them a chance to show whether they can do a job for the Everton first team.
I’m not sure constant loan moves is the best way to develop these players. I feel that this strategy isn’t really working and that given the chronic problems in the first team, why aren’t more of the Blues supposedly good quality youngsters getting a chance?
The first story concerns a midfielder the Toffees are preparing to loan out next season. Dutch youngster Nathangelo Markelo is to be sent out to a club in his home country, FC Twente.
Markelo is part of the Blues Under 23’s who won a league and cup double last season, and has been earmarked for a possible move up to the first team.
But now it seems that Everton are sending him back to Holland for a year’s first team football in the Dutch Eredivisie.
Now I know that sometimes young players might need a spell away from the parent club to work on their game, but I can’t really see how a year in the Dutch league is going to make him better able to make the grade in England.
With all due respect, it’s not a major European league with the same level of quality or intensity, so I’m not sure what value going there will have for his development. If these players do go out on loan then it should be to a league that can best replicate our own.
The Premier League is though, a particular challenge. I’m not saying its necessarily the best league, in fact I think there is more and more evidence that England’s top flight is becoming more similar to other major European leagues with a few totally dominant sides and a mass of mediocre teams competing under them.
However, the physical demands and the pace of English football is still quite different from others, and developing your game in the hurly-burly of Premier League games, is a unique test.
With the Toffees crisis in the centre-midfield positions, surely young prospects like Markelo are exactly who the club should be giving opportunities to. Especially in the remaining games of this season when there is nothing to play for?
As I’ve said before, we won’t know whether he can cut it in the Premier League if he doesn’t get a chance. I don’t think a year in Holland will answer that question.
Too often I can’t see a clear strategy behind these decisions. It seems to be a case of well he’s come through the youth ranks so lets send him to a club somewhere for a year.
Obviously, most of these players can’t play week in week out straight away, but they can be eased into the team rather than just sent away automatically.
One young player this happened to is Kieran Dowell. He’s a midfielder who has become a forgotten man at Everton. Dowell is a player who was once talked up as a real prospect but he didn’t get a chance at Goodison Park and has since moved on where his career has stagnated.
Again I’m not saying that Dowell would have made it had he stayed, but it seems to me that many of these youngsters are moved on too quickly instead of them being given a sustained chance to prove themselves. What’s the point of a youth structure if these players never get that chance?
A good example of what can happen is the situation with Anthony Gordon. The 19-year-old has been thrust into the Toffees first team mainly because Carlo Ancelotti has so few options that he can trust. So far his contributions have proved to be one of the few positives since the re-start.
Had he gone on loan, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see whether he might make the grade. Now obviously there’s a long way to go and next season, if he’s given enough chances, will be the real test of his quality and attitude. But so far so good.
Another one who comes to mind is Mason Holgate. He went out on loan several times without there being any sense that these loan periods were part of any plan for his development.
He was playing centre-half and full-back in the Championship without ever getting a chance to nail down one position and learn his craft. He returned to Everton with the club no nearer knowing if he had what it takes.
But again, through circumstance he was given a sustained run in the first team in his best position, centre-back, and has taken it with both hands. To be fair perhaps his spell at West Bromwich might have helped, but I always felt he should have had a run in the Everton side earlier.
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This process also works in reverse. Tom Davies has had a plethora of opportunities and it’s obvious I think to most observers that he’s not good enough for the top flight. It’s frustrating to see, but at least the Blues coaching staff can realise he needs to move on, (well hopefully they can now anyway!).
Yet another example is Jonjo Kenny. The right-back hasn’t had much opportunity other than odd start here and there and he was sent on loan to Germany this season. I didn’t see the point of that given that Everton were so short of young full-backs and then had to bring in their own loanee in Djibril Sidibe to replace him.
Again, Kenny might not have the ability to play in the Premier League, but this season would have been a good chance to find out. Now it’s likely he might stay in the Bundesliga and another young Blues player will have been allowed to get away without us knowing if he has what it takes.
Will the same thing happen to a talented prospect like Ellis Sims who is a highly regarded striker that has been finding the net regularly in the youth team? I hope not, especially given how few forward options Everton have and how shot shy the Blues have been recently.