Everton’s recently appointed Academy director, Gareth Prosser has been talking of his working relationship with Director of Football, Kevin Thelwell. The two men charged with developing youth at Everton are of course no strangers, having worked togther at both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Derby County.
Almost 3 months have passed since his appointment and the talk is of shaping a “best-in-class” youth development programme which allows the Club’s emerging talents to flourish on and off the field. Alignment and unity throughout the entire Academy will be instrumental in achieving success and one of the key aims is creating a clear pathway into the Blues’ First Team.
Of course none of that should come as a surprise to any supporters hearing the latest plans but the plain facts are that the Blues have not done enough in the past decade, basically since David Moyes departed.
Prior to Moyes’ exit there had been some sporadic success at first team level in the shape of (obviously) Wayne Rooney, Ross Barkley and to a lesser extent, Victor Anichebe, James Vaughan who has recently been appointed Loans Pathway manager with the club, Adam Forshaw (still at Leeds United) and Jose Baxter.
Since then in terms of home grown talent “making the grade” you have Tom Davies, the recently departed Jonjoe Kenny and current talent Anthony Gordon who have made some impact. The last years have also seen the likes of Antonee Robinson (now Fulham), Kieran Dowell (Norwich City) make some impact post-Everton and our current players Nathan Broadhead and Ellis Simms who are showing promise as they have been loaned out to Championship clubs. It is however only the first three players mentioned, Davies, Kenny and Gordon who have played any significant minutes so there has been a clear deterioration in recent years.
For the present though, Prosser is clearly relishing the role and is seeking to improve that track record.
“First and foremost, Kevin (Thelwell) is a really good person who manages people well. He provides you with the opportunity to contribute and give an opinion, and he also supports and challenges you when needed. Ultimately, he wants the very best for the club and we work well together ” said Prosser about his relationship with Thelwell.
“In all the talks I held with Denise (Barrett-Baxendale) and Kevin [prior to being appointed], it was about where they think the Club is now and where they would like to be – in terms of the First Team’s ambitions, the new stadium, and their intent for the Academy to play a big part in that bright future.”
Since his January appointment, first team manager Frank Lampard has not only helped develop Anthony Gordon into one of the country’s most exciting young forwards, he has also given debuts to Academy talents Isaac Price, Lewis Warrington and Reece Welch.
This was not unnoticed by Prosser who said: “That [Lampard’s record] was another reason why this role at Everton was so exciting to me.
“At Derby, Chelsea and here at Everton, he has that record of giving young players a chance. That’s what we want and we can ask for no more. Our job is to make sure Frank and his team are provided with players capable of, initially, performing in training – and then playing in the First Team and supporting the Club’s ambitions.”
Interesting to see the reference to academy prospects training with the first team, most recent addiiton was defender Ishe Samuels-Smith who supporters might remember featured as a 15 year old in last season’s FA Youth Cup run.
I’m sure Evertonians agree with me in welcoming the encouraging proclamations and wish Mr Prosser the best of luck in his role but, like many supporters, I really want to see them “walk the walk” in addition to those words. Good luck to all concerned, we look forward to seeing more Academy talent in the famous blue shirt!