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School of Science: Academy Prospects

Chris Brunskill

The Everton youth academy has been renowned for quite a while as being one of the best for producing young players. Now the Toffees have the facilities to match their producing standards at Finch Farm. It will be interesting to observe the transition the Everton academy will go through in terms of the players they produce from the reign with David Moyes as manager and now the start of Roberto Martinez's era as Everton manager. When thinking of the players the Blues have produced in the past the first name that will pop up will be Wayne Rooney but there is also Francis Jeffers before him and Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman who graduated around the time of Rooney and are obviously still in the Everton squad eleven and ten years on respectively. Another pair that come through the Everton ranks; James Vaughan, now plying his trade at Huddersfield and Victor Anichebe still at the Toffees were strike partners at most youth levels and then also in the senior team for a short while before Vaughan was transferred. Furthermore, Jack Rodwell was the more recent academy graduate to make it ‘big' with his £12million (possibly rising to £15million) transfer, the youngest appearance maker; Jose Baxter is now having a successful period at Oldham and James Wallace another academy graduate is now captain of Merseyside rivals Tranmere Rovers.

The most exciting recent player to make the grade from coming out of the Everton academy was Ross Barkley who, if it weren't for a triple leg break on England under-19 duty would have broken into the senior team at sixteen duplicating the feat of Rooney. However Barkley, due to the sale of Steven Pienaar and lack of funds to bring in a replacement, did break through at the start of the 2011/12 season playing against QPR and Blackburn Rovers in the Toffees' opening two fixtures after the Tottenham Hotspur game was abandoned because of the London riots. After these two appearances the Goodison faithful were only granted glimpses and cameo substitute appearances from Barkley and there were reports of more knee problems. Although last season the 19 year-old had a successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday and a spell on-loan at Leeds, in addition to various appearances at the end of the season for the Toffees including an impressive starting performance away at Arsenal. That first full season for Barkley and his involvement and performances in the preseason friendlies would lead one to believe that Barkley is going to be used more regularly this upcoming campaign. With speculation surrounding Marouane Fellaini's future at the Blues, it might be possible that the youngster could potentially replace the Belgian behind the striker.

David Moyes' final signing, John Stones from Barnsley for £3million can also be considered as an academy prospect for the upcoming season. After joining in January of this year, Stones had an impressive stint for the under-21s and will be looking to make the step up into the senior team. Stones has been involved in each of Everton's seven preseason friendlies thus far and with Martinez using three center halves and two wing backs in various friendlies the opportunity is there for young Stones to claim a regular place in the first team. Although Martinez opted for a 4-4-2 formation against Valencia in the most recent friendly and Stones played in his favored position; right-back. The Spaniard prefers a system using two wingbacks and three center halves; Stones being one of those center halves against Juventus and performing well to boot. Stones has recently been called up to the England under-21 squad to face Scotland under-21s in a friendly next Tuesday and his Andrea Pirlo-like chipped penalty against Juventus in the recent International Champions Cup clash in San Francisco will live long in the memories of Toffees fans.

Shane Duffy, 21, has had more appearances for Republic of Ireland under-21s than he has for Everton. The season before last Duffy had a string of good performances when Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin were struck with injury and the young center half formed a solid partnership with the Everton player of the year of that season; John Heitinga. The Everton under-21s captain is a tall 6ft 4, commanding center half who is also comfortable on the ball and with Martinez preferring three center halves combined with Antolin Alcaraz's hernia injury it could be the case that the Goodison faithful get another showing of Duffy. However if the Irishman does not get first team football he will probably look for a loan move or possibly even a permanent transfer to further his career.

With Conor McAleny on-loan at Brentford the striker to come out of the academy and play for the senior team will be Apostolos Vellios. The Greek moved to Everton in 2011 for £250,000 from Iraklis and has since made twenty-two appearances for the Toffees. The 21 year-old has represented Greece at under-17, 19 and 21 levels and has already scored three goals for the Blues. However Vellios made a limited number of appearances for the senior team last season and only a few glimpses of him have been seen during the preseason friendlies leading up to this campaign and with the arrival of Arouna Kone, Vellios may see very little first team Everton football yet again. Most Evertonians, well most football fans like to play manager and if I were to do the same thing I would send Vellios out on loan with a recall clause see how Jelavic and Kone start the season and then if need be bring the Greek back and involve him from the bench; if the signs are encouraging then perhaps from the start.

In regards to this season I would envisage that they are the only academy graduates to make the grade this year for the senior Everton team. Perhaps injury and suspension might mean that more are involved. However I think it will be a few years before the likes of Luke Garbutt, Matthew Kennedy and John Lundstram are promoted up the senior ranks. It might be suggested that Martinez may look to involve younger players in cup competitions. Maybe Hallam Hope, George Green and Francisco Junior will get a run out in the Capital One Cup or the FA Cup; although with it being Martinez's first season and the fact that he is the holder of the FA Cup essentially, I would imagine that he will play strong teams in the cup competitions this campaign to boost fans' opinion with good results. Passionate Blues supporters and passionate players of Football Manager the computer game series will have heard of names such as Mateusz Taudul, Mason Springthorpe, Tyias Browning, Matthew Pennington, Conor Grant, Ibou Touray and Chris Long from the recent crop of under-18s this season graduating to the under-21s however I would predict that it will be a few years before Evertonians hear these names in the starting line-up or on the bench consistently especially considering Martinez will look to stabilize at the start of his new era at the helm of Everton Football Club.

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