In an interview with The Telegraph, Everton’s Under-23 manager David Unsworth has talked about how proud he is with the young players who have come through the Toffees’ Academy system and have either established themselves in Ronald Koeman’s squad, or are knocking on the door looking for an opportunity.
Midfielder Tom Davies, only 18, made his break through over the winter and has become one of the midfield mainstays. Ademola Lookman is still a teenager and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin are regularly competing for starting spots alongside Romelu Lukaku.
Defender Mason Holgate started the season for the Blues and continues to be a dependable backup at right back and the center half position as well. Matthew Pennington has been drafted in since the recent backline injury crisis and has now signed a new extension.
Two other local players Jonjoe Kenny and Joe Williams are becoming familiar names in matchday squads. Spare a thought for Kieran Dowell who has been setting the Premier League 2 alight with the Under-23s, but has yet to see senior team action this season after making his debut last year.
Unsworth, who lifted the FA Cup with the Blues in 1995, said -
“I feel more proud now than I did as a player. You are working with these lads and want it so badly for them, and working with them every day I see how badly they want it as well. It is not like when you are a player when you are focusing on yourself, getting in the team and staying in the team. Now you are trying to pass on any help you can to everyone. So when you see six, seven or eight being involved it is wonderful.
“I feel it is a really special group. It’s a long journey for these boys and I have the privilege of seeing them right on the cusp of it, which can be the hardest bit. The final hurdle is usually the biggest one. But they are a quality group and a privilege to coach every day.
“The opportunity will always be there for young players here but once they get in they have to stay in. It is not enough for me when I see all these players getting a chance. You can’t understate how fantastic that is. But now my challenge to these players is to do what Tom has done, and when you get in, stay in every week and sign new contracts. Once you get that shirt you have to keep it.”
The former defender added that the number of players coming into Koeman’s consideration is the true barometer of the Academy’s success -
“All you need to look at is the success these lads are having on the pitch. That is what we are all about. Historically, we have always given opportunities to young players. What you need at any given time is a courageous manager to throw these lads in.
“We have got that in Ronald. It is wonderful to have that kind of manager who is not afraid at all. Sometimes you have to get it through circumstances, but everyone needs an opportunity.”