There was very welcome news from Goodison Park on Tuesday after it was announced that 19 year old Charlie Whitaker had signed a new contract with the club that keeps him with Everton until 2025.
The more widely-known names of attackers in Paul Tait’s team are undoubtedly centre forward Tom Cannon and right winger Stanley Mills, both great prospects but don’t under-estimate the potential importance of this news. Whitaker is listed by the club and other sites as “able to play on both wings and up front” as a striker and yet all those positions skirt the “true” position for him to progress at Everton. He currently operates as a #10 in Paul Tait’s team. The Under-21s have adopted and mirrored the formations used by the first team whereas in previous seasons they have gone their own way often leaving players who flourish at U21 level facing a dilemma if they were on the fringe of the first team.
Frank Lampard is currently deploying a clear 4-2-3-1 formation, a system that has seen reasonable success in the not-too-distant past, especially the early years under Roberto Martinez where the regular trio of Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas supported the goal machine Romelu Lukaku. Alex Iwobi is excelling in that “Barkley” #10 role for the first eleven right now.
The reason I draw comparison with that Martinez line up especially is that there’s more than a passing resemblance to Ross Barkley in young Whitaker. Not frame-wise, Barkley was a more powerful player on the run, but more in the way that they both found creative space easily, had confidence and could score goals. Whitaker has a habit of being in the right place at the right time and although there has been a slice of fortune in two of the goals he has scored for the U21s recently it is not luck that gets him into the right spaces, it is pure instinct. The scruffy goals, welcome as they are, also do a disservice in my description of his finishing skills, look at Everton’s fourth goal against Manchester City’s U21s as an example, that is what he can do!
Add to that instinct the close control and eye for a killer through pass or arriving late (a little like his senior boss Frank Lampard) to apply a finishing touch and you can begin to sense that we may just have a special talent on our hands.
✍️ | #EFCU21 midfielder Charlie Whitaker has agreed a new three-year deal with the Blues.— Everton Academy (@EvertonAcademy) November 1, 2022
It looked a little different last season as, after a promising start, he lost his way a little in David Unsworth’s team, sometimes played as a main striker which he simply isn’t. Like many of his peers, Whitaker expressed his delight to be working with Paul Tait again.
“It’s been perfect working with Taity again. The manager’s tactics help me exactly how I want to play. You’re given the freedom to try things and play without fear. Him and Keith [Southern] believe in me which has been great.
“It’s been a massive learning curve for me training with the First Team, too. The tempo is completely different. It’s faster and more intense. It’s been great experience that I’ve learnt a lot from so far.
“As a kid, Frank Lampard was someone I looked up to and to learn from him now has been terrific.
Let’s hope he can now maintain his progress and kick on towards the first team. There’s a history of course of attacking midfielders under Frank Lampard, just ask Mason Mount at Chelsea. It’s not impossible for us to be dreaming of this player being at a similar level if, importantly, he continues to knuckle down and learn. He’s achieved nothing right now and it will take massive application to reach his potential but I, for one, believe he can do it. Good luck Charlie!