Everton's free-spending ways have certainly captured the attention of the fans this summer, with six new players brought in for the senior side (Jordan Pickford, Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez, Michael Keane, Henry Onyekuru, Wayne Rooney), and a further two (Cuco Martina, Gylfi Sigurdsson) expected in the coming days.
In addition, there has been plenty of investment in the Under-23 side as well, more than some Premier League sides have spent on their senior teams. Three players have been added so far (Nathangelo Markelo, Boris Mathis, Josh Bowler) with Anton Donkor coming back on loan again.
With so many players coming in it does raise the question whether existing academy graduates will continue to get first-team opportunities.
Everton has a proud record of not only developing young players but giving them an extended opportunity in the senior team, the most recent example being Tom Davies.
The Under-23 team manager and former Everton player David Unsworth was asked by Starsport if he felt all the incoming players would suppress the development of the youth. And he was emphatic in his answer:
“It will raise the bar. And that’s great. It’s a challenge for the young players to be better than they already are. They know now they’ve got to be even better.
“What I do know is they will get an opportunity somewhere along the line, whether it’s in training or in a game. Ronald’s taken a lot of the young players on tour with him. It’s up to them to develop. We’ve got to go up a level. That’s a great challenge for me as well as them.
On the development of Davies and Mason Holgate:
“It was absolutely brilliant too see people like Tom and Mason come through and play so well. I sat in the stand and felt proud. But it didn’t surprise me.
“They are top young players who are very humble and desperate to succeed. You have to perform when you are given that opportunity and they did that most weeks. A few others weren’t far behind them either.”
The next Wayne Rooney?
“As good as England’s all-time record goalscorer? That’s a big ask! There is a lot of talent, there is. What we have to do is be patient. We might keep them in the system longer than we used to.
“We have to treat everyone we think has got potential as a separate case, maybe get them out on loan, bring them back, and they might train with our first team. There are different routes for every individual. Tom never went on loan. Matt Pennington did, and then he got in. There are different pathways. We need to keep these players in the system as long as possible.
“First and foremost, Wayne has so much to offer as an Everton player, that goes without question. But he’s a winner. So not just the young players, if any player at the club doesn’t benefit from training and being around him, they’re not tapping into the winning mentality that he’s shown throughout his career. He’s a terrific player.”
U-20 World Cup winners:
“Yes, I’ve seen the medals. They were showing off, and we stopped that straight away. We brought them down one or two pegs. But we were very proud of them. They’re great lads, the five lads. The whole country was.
“I spoke to them the day after and they were all buzzing. They are very humble lads and they are all desperate to be top footballers. They have certainly given themselves a great opportunity. We wish them well. I watched every game in Korea. It was brilliant.”
Davies’ summer break away from international football:
“Tom’s been a standout in the Premier League so a higher age group wouldn’t have been a problem at all. That wasn’t my decision. It was his breakthrough season. He played a lot of games in our first team and the decision was made to give him a break. It didn’t stop Paul’s team winning the World Cup, so it was probably the right decision.”
The future of the club:
“I think Merseyside is a hotbed of talent. I really do. But we’ve looked at all our age groups, all our depth charts and if ever we’ve felt there’s a hole anywhere and we need a player, we’ve scoured the world really. That’s the market we’re in now.
“The board have afforded me the opportunity to bring players in, which is amazing. If the standard at the top has gone up the standard underneath has got to go up too. We all have to raise our game and produce better players.
“I’m excited. That’s the key word. We’re signing top players. The club is going from strength to strength. We’ve got a new owner, a new board, a brilliant chairman, the promise of a new stadium, and we’re making fantastic signings. It’s a great time to be an Evertonian.”