Just weeks after somewhat surprisingly announcing his retirement from football, fan favourite Leighton Baines has returned to the Everton fold but this time as a coach.
The 35-year-old will take over as the club’s first ever Professional Development Coach, thereby retaining his expertise and professionalism and utilizing that to train a whole new generation of Blues in the manner that Baines comported himself throughout his career.
In a statement released on the Everton website, the former left back said -
“I’m really pleased to be back and to be part of this exciting new structure. While our development pathway is already highly respected, it has been very clear to me that there is a shared ambition here to develop and improve this even further, and I’m hugely excited to have the opportunity to play a part in this.
“I feel proud and privileged that Carlo, Marcel, Denise and David all believe I can support them to achieve their ambitions - and just can’t wait to get started!”
He will be supporting David Unsworth who has been rewarded for his years of service to the club both as player and coach by being promoted to Director of the Academy, while retaining his current role as manager of the Under 23 side that he has led to great success in recent years, winning the Premier League 2 title twice in three years as well as the domestic double once.
Unsworth was very pleased to be joined by Baines -
“I’m honoured and privileged by this opportunity and hugely excited by the opportunities this role will provide. This Club is in my blood - and youth development is in this Club’s DNA. Being able to work with the Academy Staff to shape the development pathway for the young players in the Academy is incredibly exciting. I know I speak for us all when I say there is no prouder moment than seeing young, homegrown progress into our Under-23s and, ultimately, into our First Team.
“It is absolutely brilliant to have Leighton join us in this new and exciting role. Leighton has impressed us greatly in our discussions since he made his decision to retire from playing and we’re all thrilled to have him on board. He has tremendous recent experience which will help us ensure our young players are best-equipped to progress through each stage of their journey, both as players and as young men.”
Former Academy Director Joel Waldron will now become the Academy’s Chief Operating Officer, a new role created to cover the work he is doing managing operations relating to the Academy at USM Finch Farm.
Director of Football Marcel Brands, who has overseen the restructuring work commented on the changes as well -
“David’s credentials as a coach are first-class and we all know this is matched by his passion for the Club. The Chief Executive and I have worked with him on this extension of his role and we all believe this will help ensure an even smoother route into the senior squad for our homegrown players.
“We are all committed to developing the very best local talent and are determined to maintain our position as one of the best player development programmes in football. Adding Leighton and his knowledge into that structure will be very valuable to us. He is taking up a new and important role which he has helped design based on his recent perspective and tremendous experience as a player.
“With David working closely alongside his coaching team, and with Joel Waldron continuing to manage our operations, we are confident the Academy is in very good hands.”
Blues will be made up to see Baines back at the club he loves, and hope that he can continue to mould youngsters the way he carried himself throughout his career.