Following the departure of David Unsworth, Everton have shaken up the youth structure under new Director of Football Kevin Thelwell. The former Wolves administrator had previously indicated that he would look to separate the role of Academy Director from the coach of the Under-23s, having done both jobs at Wolverhampton before.
The club today announced that highly-regarded Gareth Prosser is taking over as the new Academy Director. Thelwell has previously worked with Prosser at both Derby County and Wolves and together gained a number of plaudits for the Wolves Academy, who have previously been ranked in the top three footballing academies in the country. Prosser holds a UEFA Pro Licence – the highest coaching qualification in professional football – and recently graduated from the University of Salford with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
Prosser is currently the general manager at Professional Game Academy Audit Co, which carries out the independent auditing process for academies throughout the country on behalf of the Premier League, EFL and FA. He was also involved in the Elite Player Performance Plan development at Wolves, going on to achieve Category One status in 2012 and becoming one of only six Category One academies to be given an unconditional three-year licence. Under Prosser and Thelwell’s watch, Wolves were also at one stage ranked as the third-best academy in the country.
Two other appointments were also announced, with former Under-18s coach Paul Tait making the step up to the Under-21s, and former player Leighton Baines now taking over the Under-18s after being the assistant last season.
Speaking after the appointment was made official, Prosser said -
“I am delighted and very proud with the opportunity to lead Everton Academy. Throughout the interview process, it was clear from our CEO Denise (Barrett-Baxendale) and Kevin the importance of the Academy moving forwards to support the ambitious aims of the Football Club.
“The target is clear: to create a best-in-class academy programme that will allow Everton to attract, recruit and develop top people; players and staff. I look forward to working with the Academy, Denise, Kevin, Frank and the wider Club staff to ensure the programme is the best it can be to provide players with opportunities to represent this great club. We all need to work together to make this happen.
“I would also like to thank the Professional Game Academy Audit Board, chaired by Jane Purdon, and the PGAAC team for their support. The PGAAC has made great progress over the past three years, working in collaboration with the Premier League, EFL and the Football Association to ensure the Academy system operates safely and to help raise standards. I wish the company well for the future.”
He was commended by Thelwell as well -
“Gareth is an outstanding Academy Director and his recent work as General Manager with the PGAAC has continued that development within the area of youth development.
“We want our Academy to operate at the highest possible standards and, after a rigorous and thorough recruitment process, felt Gareth - as the lead practitioner responsible for setting and developing these standards for all academies across the country in his previous role - was the standout candidate to support that development at Everton.”
Everton are looking to improve their youth setup which despite competitive success at the Under-18 and Under-23 levels has not been able to replicate that in terms of consistently funneling youngsters into the first team. Over the last few years under Marcel Brands the club has bid farewell to a number of over-agers with no futures at the club, and Thelwell will look to continue streamlining that process by adding a number of new positions, including Player Development Lead Coach, Player Development Senior Coach, Loan Pathways Manager and Head of Performance Analysis and Insights.
Regarding Tait and Baines, he added -
“Paul has been working within our Academy for more than a decade and has an excellent reputation as a coach. I am delighted that when benchmarked against other candidates, he was the outstanding choice to become our new Under-21 Head Coach.
“I am pleased to be able to give Paul the opportunity to lead at Under-21 level and I am certain he will do an excellent job in developing players for our First Team. Despite Leighton being at the very start of his coaching journey, he has already demonstrated a high level of coaching capability and awareness around what players need to progress through the pathway.
“These characteristics, among others, made him a standout candidate to become Under-18s Head Coach. Our young players will not only benefit from his outstanding experiences as a player but also his commitment to developing young players for the next stage of their careers.”