Steve Walsh, the Director of Football at Everton, spoke to evertonfc.com about his recruitment strategy for the Toffees. The biggest thing he mentioned that will hearten fans no end is that character is as important to him as talent, a feeling that Ronald Koeman also embodies.
Walsh is very highly regarded as a talent scout, having been a key part of the Leicester City’s out-of-nowhere Premier League title win last season. Having recruited Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante for the Foxes, he’s off to a good start with the Blues as well, bringing in the unheralded Idrissa Gueye and Ademola Lookman so far.
“Character is very important and you can find out a lot about players when you are watching them on the pitch.
“It’s not necessarily about what you do when you’ve got the ball, a lot of the time it’s about what you do when you don’t have it.
“Are they prepared to roll up their sleeves and put a shift in for the team? Do they get back into the team shape and know their defensive responsibilities as well as their attacking prowess?
“Then obviously you do your homework, you ring people who have worked with them before, and I speak to players who have played with them before, especially if they’re experienced players and I trust their judgement. Basically, I try to find out as much about them as I can.”
Everton seem to have the right mix of veteran leadership along with youthful energy, and that is intentional, Walsh says.
“The balance of the team is probably the key.
“You need your young players, who bring that enthusiasm and newness to it. Then you’ve got your experienced players, who have been there before and achieved.
“You also need players with different mentalities. Everyone has got to be behind the project and know what the way forward is, but they all bring their own special things to it and finding out about their character helps. At the end of the day though football is a team game and you need all of the different components to match up to do well.”
Walsh also said how important his relationship with manager Ronald Koeman was as they worked together.
“The modern-day football manager has to manage the team and the situation at the club and it’s very difficult for them.
“Yes, they have a knowledge of players, yes, they watch a lot of games on TV and the opposition when we are playing them. But it’s impossible for them to know everything.
“Modern day recruitment is a collaboration between the manager and the recruitment staff at the clubs. And it’s about trust. It’s about being together.
“When I came to the club, the first thing I asked Ronald was ‘how do you want to play?’ We then got a board out and looked at formations and the type of players that he likes because unless I know the blueprint for the type of players that Ronald wants, then we’d all be wasting our time.
“Fortunately we came together on that and it has worked very well. But there has to be that understanding between the two of us.”
Towards the end of the January transfer window it seemed that the two were at loggerheads over signings, especially after some comments Koeman made at a press conference, but the Dutchman later cleared up the confusion.
Another understated part of Walsh’s contribution to the Toffees has been his oversight of the Under-23 team managed by David Unsworth. In an unprecedented move, nine youngsters went out on loan over January to give them more playing experience. Despite that, Unsworth’s charges have remained on top of Premier League 2, leading by six points with six games to go.
As many fans had pointed out over the summer, the appointment of Walsh was more important than any players Everton did or did not sign during the transfer window, and it’s starting to manifest itself already.