Sometimes, as the saying goes, “when it rains it pours”. That expression seems to sum up the fortunes of the club, not least at youth level.
While there were two recent glimmers of hope for Sean Dyche with the Carabao Cup victory, albeit against a team anchored to the foot of the Football League and the draw and good performance against Sheffield United, the same can hardly be said for Paul Tait’s team. Indeed at the more junior level, only 2 late goals secured a first victory for Leighton Baines’ team on Thursday 7th September.
We have all agreed ad nauseam that it is the development not the results that matter at these levels. Too often in fairly recent years we have seen really successful sides at Under 21 that dissolve without producing first team regulars (only Tom Davies and Anthony Gordon played regularly).
For Paul Tait’s Under 21s they have now played 4 matches, drawing once and suffering 3 quite heavy defeats. Scoring goals in the absence of last season’s hotshots Tom Cannon and Stan Mills has been and is likely to continue to be a problem. 3 goals scored this season and 13 conceded is grim reading no matter how positive you try to be.
In all fairness, the squad is still missing several injured players who would be certain starters such as Kyle John, Sean McAllister, Eli Campbell and Charlie Whitaker. Also, the likes of Reece Welch, Stan Mills and Zan-Luk Leban are getting valuable first team football elsewhere and to further deplete the already scant squad, they are unable to call on Lewis Dobbin and Tyler Onyango who are fixtures in Sean Dyche’s senior squad at the moment. As we know, Tom Cannon also made the jump to Leicester City last week.
So, what we are seeing is a team made up of a few 21 year olds like Ryan Astley and Mackenzie Hunt and younger players that only broke through to this level at the back end of last season. More experienced defensive midfielder Luke Butterfield’s return to the line up in the last game against West Ham will at least help shore things up defensively.
Learning from mistakes is a big part of development for the Under 21s and there are, unfortunately, plenty of those at the moment especially in defensive positions. One post-transfer deadline day move for young Oxford United goalkeeper Fraser Barnsley might be some recognition that things had to change a little.
“It’s an amazing feeling and a very proud moment for me and my family."— Everton Academy (@EvertonAcademy) September 5, 2023
Hear from new #EFCU21 goalkeeper Fraser Barnsley.
One move that did not materialise though he made 3 substitute appearances was for forward Malik Mothersille, a Chelsea graduate who had declined a contract at the Stamford Bridge club. Contrary to some of the ridiculous comments made elsewhere around Mothersille’s decision to move to Peterborough United rather than Everton, let’s just say you can’t decline an Everton offer that wasn’t made!
Next up for Tait’s young men is an away trip in the Papa John’s Trophy to Doncaster Rovers on 19th September. It will be interesting to see if the youngsters make a good impression against the team that gave Sean Dyche’s seniors such a hard first 45 minutes two weeks ago! Doncaster can of course field their first team if they wish.
Five games played, 1 victory and 4 losses, 7 goals scored and 11 conceded is not a great start either for Leighton Baines. The knock on-effect of there being shortages at Under 21 level of course means that Baines regularly is choosing first year scholars and schoolboys to make up his squad.
Baines will have been delighted however to see his team secure that first victory against Fleetwood Town’s Under 21s thanks to late goals from Callum Bates and Joel Catesby. Their next fixture is on Saturday 16th September when they entertain Stoke City at Finch Farm.
Here’s hoping the two squads can get morale-boosting results!