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What has January meant for the Everton Under-21s?

Outgoings, returns from the treatment room, an unexpected incoming transfer and some encouraging performances

Everton U21 v Manchester City U21 - Premier League 2
Goalscorer Sean McAllister (centre) whose form and goals have earned him a loan move joining up with Duncan Ferguson
Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

The last few weeks have seen a return to action for Paul Tait’s team and the form has been getting steadily better. However, much of the news has been made during the last month with rotation of the players. We have seen several seniors turn out at this level this season and now, with a few regulars moving on and some long term injuries clearing up, the team is certain to have a different look in the remaining months of the season.

Incomings

It was a surprise to most Everton fans when it was announced on Wednesday that they had completed the signing of 19 year old Ghanaian Kingsford Boakye, subject to a work permit (which isn’t a foregone conclusion). His movements since he left his Ghanaian club Zilina Africa FC are a little mysterious having been announced as a signing for Serie A’s AC Milan 11 months ago but lasting only 2 months before being released.

The reported reason for such a short stint was that the Italian club wanted to free up a second non-European Union signing vacancy so they could sign Nigerian international Samuel Chukwueze. They already had former Chelsea man Ruben Loftus-Cheek as one of their two permitted non-EU players.

It’s not uncommon for players of Boakye’s age to go on trial at clubs around Europe. He appears, from the limited YouTube footage available, to be a tricky winger comfortable on either flank. The fact that such a high profile club as the Rossoneri saw fit to sign him is a good sign. He will clearly join up with Paul Tait’s Under 21s rather than the first team if he secures a UK work permit.

Returns to fitness

Returns from longer term injuries at this level are a really welcome sight too. A few players who had been involved in first team training or pre-season friendlies in the last year or so have recently been named in Paul Tait’s starting X1 or bench. In particular, attacking midfielder Charlie Whitaker, winger/ striker Katia Kouyate and midfielder/ full back Liam Higgins were all included. All had been regulars in the Under 21 set up. In addition young centre back Ed Jones was also named on the bench fort he first time in months.

Hopefully Whitaker, for one, will regain the momentum he had built up in season 2021/22 before a cruel injury in November 2022 stopped his progress. He is a Dyche-type of player, revelling in pockets of space behind the main striker. He works hard, is brave on the ball and has an eye for a pass and a goal. His 20 goals and 11 assists in 66 matches at youth level will give you some idea why I hold out such hope.

Everton U21 v Paris Saint-Germain U21: Premier League International Cup
Charlie Whitaker in action
Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

Outgoings

Welsh under 21 international, Ryan Astley left the club in January for the hurly-burly of the Scottish Premiership with Dundee. As a 22 year old centre back who had enjoyed a successful stint on loan with Accrington Stanley last season, it was the right path for him. Breaking into David Unsworth’s Under 23 set up as a 16 year old there were strong hopes for him and although he and the Blues have accepted a parting of the ways is inevitable, I would not be surprised if he becomes a real success story north of the border. Good luck, Ryan!

A development on transfer deadline day on Thursday saw the promising Sean McAllister join up with a very familiar face, again in Scotland, as he joined up on a 4 month loan deal with Duncan Ferguson at Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Championship. McAllister had scored 3 goals in 5 appearances in Premier League 2, impressive for a midfield player! Good luck Sean!

Also on a deadline day loan move to League One Fleetwood Town was promising left footed centre back Elijah Campbell. The 19 year old joined recently-appointed manager Charlie Adam (ex Liverpool player) as the Cod Army try to arrest their slide into the Football League’s bottom tier. It’ll be good for Everton if he can prove himself in that league. Good luck Eli!

Encouraging form

Most recently, the young Toffees faced a tough game at home to fellow strugglers Manchester City. The game ended in a hard-fought 1-1 draw and featured a great second hald goal from Northern Irishman McAllister.

The previous game had seen another goal from the energetic midfielder McAllister, this time against a good Benfica side. An eagle-eyed linesman had correctly spotted that his shot was cleared from behind the line.

The Toffees goalscoring that night was completed by our Portuguese striker Youssef Chermiti who showed good anticipation and poise to slot home after a defensive mistake. The game ended in a 2-1 win for Paul Tait’s men.

On the back of three unbeaten games, Paul Tait will now begin the task of reintegrating a few of the players returning from injury back into his Under 21 squad. They currently sit 22nd in a 26 team league propped up by no less than Manchester City. Their next game is on Friday 9th February away to 24th placed Aston Villa.