The season for Leighton Baines’ young men so far has been disappointing results-wise. As we have long acknowledged however, the results are secondary to the development of the young players and in a day and age when the club is in a financial stranglehold, to see promising talent emerge is very welcome. Make no mistake, the current crop of players are talented and have a wise and talented coach in charge.
The team has won 3, drawn 1 and lost 8 league games scoring 15 and conceding 22, They sit 11th in the 13-team Under 18 Premier League (North). They also recently exited the FA Youth Cup in their second tie.
As for the leading goalscorers cross-competition, it’s quite healthy to note that the club has 3 strikers that have each scored 4 goals in Coby Ebere, Martin Sherif and George Morgan. So, below is a little focus on the different types of striker they are. The one thing they have in common is that they know where the back of the net is!
Most recently, last Saturday, the young Toffees secured a 1-0 home victory over their Nottingham Forest counterparts. For Coby Ebere, only recently returning from injury, it marked 4 goals in his last 2 games. In the link below you will see a variety of finishing skills from the powerfully-built young striker in the previous game at Stoke City. All goals were scored in a 5 minute timeframe and his neat close range finish for his first was followed up with a very tasty powerful 20 yard drive for the second then topped off with a diving header for his hat-trick. Gatecrashing his goals-fest was a beautifully taken goal by central midfielder Harrison Armstrong. They’re some goals!
For those that have not seen Ebere before, the young 18 year old German who has been in the UK with Everton for the last 7 years, is equally at home as a traditional centre forward or on the left wing. Two-footed, fast, a good finisher but, most of all powerful, he is one to watch.
Martin Sherif has been largely with the Under 21 squad this season and most recently injured. However, he has continued to build on the breakthrough season he had in the 2022/ 23 season. He is more of an out and out centre forward than Ebere. That is not to say that he is not effective outside of the penalty area but the tall Dutchman acts as a very effective target man, he has developed his skills in holding up the ball and, as can be seen below, he also knows how to score a variety of goals. Still only 17 and capped for the Netherlands at that level, he is an exciting prospect who, I am sure, will be loaned out at some point in the next few years for senior experience. He already has the physique not to be over-powered against seasoned professionals.
The variety of skills among the young Blues strikers is typified by 17 year old George Morgan. He has been capped at Wales Under 17 level already. Although he is undoubtedly a striker, he does a lot of his work in team build up play and shows good timing of his arrival in the penalty area as shown in the example below. Not as tall as Sherif or Ebere, he has a complementary skill-set meaning that he could easily play with one or even both of his peers and appears to have that goal-scoring instinct that you cannot easily teach.
Of course, while scorers of goals attract a lot of attention there is talent rhoughout this squad which makes it all the more disappointing that they were eliminated at such an early stage of the Youth Cup.
In particular, I think George Pickford the goalkeeper (no relation), Bradley Moonan at centre back, Callum Bates and Harrison Armstrong at centre midfield all look to have good futures if they continue to learn and develop. Throughout the squad, beyond those I have named, there are players who look comfortable at Under 18 level despite starting the season as 16 year olds. The future is very bright in my opinion.
Next up for Leighton Baines squad is a home game against Middlesbrough on Saturday 10th February.