It was often cited that David Moyes had no faith in youth. Many will point at his lack of leadership with Jack Rodwell, and his inability to use him properly, ruined what looked to be a prodigious talent. Roberto Martinez however, is a different story. If there is one thing he has done this year, it is put his faith in the youngsters, and two of them have paid him back in full.
There is no better place to start a review of Everton's youngsters than with Ross Barkley. Everyone involved with Everton Football Club knew that Barkley was an immense talent, but under former manager David Moyes he never seemed to breakthrough like we were expecting. Two disappointing loan spells at Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday, where he failed to uproot any trees, had left many Evertonians feeling that their hopes of another star of the quality of Wayne Rooney were far from the mark. Then Roberto Martinez strolled into Goodison Pak and changed things around. Star performances from the England youngster have been plenty, with several wonder goals added in to the mix for good measure. Those such as that against Newcastle, the free kick against Swansea and that against Manchester City on the penultimate day will live long in the memory of Evertonians for years and hint at something better to come. Such have been the level of performances from Ross Barkley this year; he has been catapulted into the England squad for this summer's World Cup in Brazil. That is quite some rise indeed.
Another English youngster who has excelled this year has been John Stones. Signed by David Moyes, the former Barnsley man has been nothing but a revelation under Roberto Martinez. With Phil Jagielka having missed a large portion of the second half of the season through injury, and Antonlin Alcaraz proving the same, the youngster was thrown into the trenches, and the limelight with it, and has performed above all expectations. Such has been the level of ability shown by the 19 year old, with his comfort in possession, ability to pass the ball and capability to bring it out from the back, pundits such as Gary Lineker were clamouring for his selection in Engand's World Cup squad. Ultimately he only made the back up list, but should his current level of progress continue then it is hard to see him not being an England regular for many years to come.
Other notable mentions in this article are of course Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu, but as both were here on loan, then their mentions shall be brief. The Belgian was exceptional in leading the line for Everton this year but was at times absent for most of the games. It is easy to forget he is only 20 years old, and will be a world-class striker someday, though you fear it is unlikely to be for Everton. Similarly, Deulofeu had an excellent loan spell at the club, and is clearly a prodigious talent for the future, but was often caught trying to do too much or simply neglecting his defensive duties. Nonetheless, Everton did well to acquire such talents on loan and have benefitted from their presence.
While the four youngsters mentioned above have had excellent seasons for Everton this year, the same cannot be said for Apostolos Velios and Magaye Gueye. Several news outlets reported upon how the Greek Vellios refused to go out on loan earlier in the season, and when he eventually did head out, no sort of impression was made. It actually appears that he spent more time posting photos on Instagram than he did furthering his Everton career, and has subsequently left the club. One must fear that Frenchman Gueye will follow a similar path after failing to break into the Everton first team or make an impression away on loan.
Further down the Everton chain, it has been a successful year for Everton's under 18's as they ended up as champions. Such is the talent in the squad, manager Kevin Sheedy has been glowing of their performances, hoping to produce players who can play for the club at senior level some day. Two of this youth team even carried their success through to the international stage, with promising youngster Ryan Ledson captaining England to a European triumph, with Jon Joe Kenny playing a key role at full back. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the under 21's who finished 11th in an uninspiring campaign.
All in all, the English youngsters in Everton's first team squad have excelled to a level beyond all expectations this year, namely Ross Barkley who will be heading to the World Cup, though John Stones should also be credited. It is also heartening to know that, beneath that, the under 18s are continuing to impress and offer an insight into potential Everton stars of the future.