Indian summers are usually after the close of the summer season but, for the young players of Everton, it takes on a new meaning this week. A specially selected squad (there is no regular Under-19 group as such) are heading out to the west coast region of India for a tournament known as the Premier League Next Generation Cup.
Between Wednesday 17 May and Friday 26 May, the young Blues, led by Under-18 assistant coach Kieran Driscoll will face Premier League Wolves on Wednesday (3.30pm kick-off BST) before facing India’s RF (Reliance Foundation) Young Champs on Saturday (11.30am BST). They then conclude their group B matches next Tuesday when they face India’s top flight side Sudeva Delhi FC (3.30pm BST).
The other group, features Bengaluru FC, West Ham United, ATK Mohun Bogan and the current Next Gen champions from South Africa, Stellenbosch FC.
It promises to be a great learning experience for the young Toffees, a point not lost on Kieran Driscoll:
“It’s a great opportunity for the boys. It’s come a little bit out of the blue at the end of the season. It’s a Premier League event over in India. It’ll be us with Wolves, West Ham, as well as four Indian Super League teams. They’ll be a little bit older as Under-21 sides. There will also be a team called Stellenbosch from South Africa.
“It’s a trip we’re all excited for. We’re there for 12 days so there will be a lot of things to adapt to and to acclimatise to, but I think if the boys want to move into the professional game, they’ll need to become used to that sort of thing, like longer journeys into different and diverse cultures. This will, no doubt, put them in a good position moving forwards in their careers.”
The 16-man travelling squad is as follows:
Seb Jensen, Dylan Graham
Roman Dixon, Dan Maher, Odin Samuels-Smith, Eddie Jones, Brad Moonan
Luke Butterfield, Jenson Metcalfe, Halid Djankpata, Callum Bates, Matthew Apter
Owen Barker, Coby Ebere, Jacob Beaumont-Clark, Isaac Heath
It’s perhaps significant that at the end of a gruelling season for the Under 21s, a number of young players who were eligible by age and who had made a breakthrough to Paul Tait’s squad (Ishe Samuels-Smith, Elijah Campbell, Francis Okoronkwo and Martin Sherif) have not been included.
The tournament begins on Wednesday and we’ll have reports on progress throughout the competition.