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Everton 2020/21 Season Preview: Under 23s

What’s new for the young Blues ahead of an opening day fixture against Liverpool?

Everton v Preston North End - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Everton Under-23s finally return to action on Sunday – and with an eye-catching fixture to start: a derby against Liverpool - along with the Women’s and Men’s sides who are also in action.

They’ll also have Leighton Baines watching closely, with the world’s soundest ever left-back signing up be the club’s first ‘Professional Development Coach’.

But after an extended break and a summer of turmoil, how will David Unsworth’s side be shaping up?

Who’s Out

Despite sending out 14 players on loan last season and 21 the year before, Everton have been quite slow in sorting temporary moves away for their youngsters so far. Only Nathan Markelo, 21, has completed a loan move away, joining Twente Enschede in his homeland on a season-long loan.

With the first team apparently trying to complete a loan move for young Chelsea centre-back, Fikayo Tomori, one would imagine that would free up both of Everton’s highly-rated young centre backs, Lewis Gibson and Jarrad Branthwaite, to also secure loan moves away in order to get some valuable first team experience – although it’s unlikely the Blues will send either out until Mason Holgate and/or Yerry Mina are back fully fit.

Loan moves should also be on the cards for the likes on Joao Virginia, Beni Baningime, Con Ouzounidis, Dennis Adeniran and Ellis Simms, while the likes of Callum Connolly, Nathan Broadhead and Josh Bowler will also be heading out of the club – whether that be on loan or on permanent moves.

There have, however, been several players from the Under-23 setup leaving on a permanent basis. Kieran Phillips, Morgan Feeney, Alex Denny, Matty Foulds, Manasse Mampala and Korede Adedoyin were all released on frees, while Fraser Hornby joined French side Stade Reims for a £1.5 million fee and Kieran Dowell also left for a couple of million to Norwich City.

Who’s In

David Unsworth has been known to recruit externally for the under-23’s in previous years, but he’s been quiet on the transfer front this time around.

Niels Nkounkou, 19, is the only youngster to have joined the club this summer, but he’s already been linking up with the first team during pre-season – which is a hugely promising sign, with the club requiring cover at left-back. It seems likely that Nkounkou will provide back-up for Lucas Digne for the first team, while getting minutes for the under-23 this season.

Of course, several players have made the step-up from the under-18s this summer, with Sebastian Quirk, Bobby Carroll, MacKenzie Hunt, Lewis Dobbin and Rhys Hughes having played a key part in pre-season.

Players to Watch

After being awarded a three-year contract in July, the club clearly have high hopes for lanky midfielder, Tyler Onyango. The Luton-born 17-year-old made seven appearances for the 23’s last season, but you’d expect him to be a key player for David Unsworth’s side this season.

With all of Everton’s senior goalkeepers all on international duty for last weekend’s 2-0 pre-season win over Preston, the number one shirt was given to 18-year-old Harry Tyrer, who caught the eye with some excellent saves, solid distribution – and, of course, a clean sheet. He may yet go out on loan, but if not he should star for David Unsworth’s side.

Another well-known name from the youth setup is Ellis Simms. He had a solid year for the under-23s last season, scoring nine goals in 19 appearances. In an ideal situation, one would hope the big 19-year-old striker would move out on loan for the season, but if not, he could dominate at this level and provide some extra cover up top for the first team.

Last but not least, 19-year-old right-back, Kyle John, could be set for an important season – especially after he played an hour for the first team against Preston. The right-back spot for the first team is still up for grabs, with Jonjoe Kenny and Seamus Coleman currently battling it out, but if John is able to excel for the under-23s, don’t be surprised to see him enter the first team setup if either Kenny or Coleman get injured.