Academy changes must deliver for Everton going forward

Everton have made some significant changes to the Academy and youth-team coaching set-up as Director of Football Kevin Thelwell continues to make his presence felt.

Significantly, Thelwell has brought in his former Wolves colleague Gavin Prosser, as the new Academy Director at Everton.

As well as that appointment, Leighton Baines has taken over as Under-18s coach and Paul Tait moves to lead the revamped Under-21s.

All this represents a major restructuring of the Blues’ youth and academy set-up, something that I think has been needed for a while now.

Despite the past success of the Under-23s who won the double several years ago when David Unsworth was in charge, there’s been a sense of stagnation recently with too few of the club’s youngsters able to progress to the first-team in the past few seasons.

And this is despite all the inconsistency and underacheivement of the first-team over the last two or three campaigns.

In truth, the Toffees’ haven’t really had a really successful youth team player who was able to consistently perform after breaking through to the first-team, since Wayne Rooney so spectacularly burst onto the scene twenty years ago.

Over the years other highly promising players like Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley also got some chances and did make a number of first-team appearances.

But, there was a sense both ultimately failed to make the most of their opportunities and they each left the club with a feeling of unfulfilled potential.

However, it could be argued they perhaps didn’t get enough consistent chances, with Rodwell sold to Manchester City just as he seemed to be finding his feet in the team and Barkley seeing his opportunities restricted at times as he was in and out of the side under different managers.

Will that now change under Frank Lampard?

Recently, Anthony Gordon has been the only one of the club’s youngsters to make the grade with a solid, breakthrough campaign last season, despite the upheaval of playing for two different coaches and finding himself part of a team battling to avoid relegation.

Other young talents like Ellis Simms and Lewis Dobbin have shown flashes of potential and had a few minutes here and there in the Everton side without yet cementing a place in the squad. Their futures still seem very uncertain.

It is tough for home-grown academy players to make that breakthrough, especially these days in teams like Everton’s which are full of expensive signings and younger players from overseas.

Also, few Premier League clubs now go into the lower leagues in England to find their talent as used to happen in the past.

Then often promsing youngsters who hadn’t maybe initially made the grade might end up plying their trade in the second or third tier for a few years, learning and developing their game before getting another chance in the top flight.

The Blues’ have tried the spend big and often approach on established names over the past five or six years under Farhad Moshiri’s ownership and it most certainly hasn’t worked, so a more sensible and prudent policy would seem worth a try.

And of course, the clubs finances dictate that now anyway with the Toffees’ skating on thin ice as far as Premier League rules go after several ruinously expensive seasons due to that past overspending and then the impact of Covid restrictions.

While it’s not easy, if the club could possibly find another two or three Gordon’s, or even better, over the next few seasons that would potentially save a huge amount in transfer and agent fees. So, let’s hope these changes in the academy structure can finally start to bear fruit.

After all look at the impact that two academy graduates have had at the top two teams in the league: Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Both are top quality performers who have come through the ranks so saving their clubs a fortune, while both also have huge potential sell-on value if their clubs ever decided to cash in on them.