In 2017, teen sensation Jadon Sancho moved to Borussia Dortmund and has proceeded to prosper. In 2018, Reiss Nelson also moved abroad. And, in January 2019, despite interest from Manchester City and Huddersfield respectively, Josh Maja opted to move to Bordeaux in a move that seemed as unexpected as it did brave.
And so, with Everton’s U23s on the cusp of yet another youth championship, we examine why Everton’s youth prospects have decided to stay put and ultimately lead the team to unprecedented success.
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Despite David Unsworth’s success this season and the development of so much talent – Jonjoe Kenny has dethroned Seamus Coleman in defence while in the summer, Tom Davis became Everton’s youngest ever captain at 20 years and 60 days old – we want to travel back to September 2017 and celebrate a milestone.
Amid the focus which welcomed Wayne Rooney back to Manchester United as an Everton player, a milestone came and went with much less commotion. This occasion marked the 1,000th consecutive match in which Everton had named at least one U23-prospect in their team. An appropriate match nonetheless, as Manchester United are the only other side to have achieved such a sequence.
That year, Everton’s U23s couldn’t retain their crown and finished mid-table in a season that seemed to indicate the end of Everton’s dominance. This Season however, Unsworth has revitalised Everton’s U23s and thus made them competitive once more.
And so, as Everton’s U23s look to win their second youth championship in three years, what is it that makes the academy so successful?
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Back in 2015, David Unsworth proclaimed that Everton’s academy was the best in the country. Now this may have seemed somewhat of an audacious statement, but, Everton’s academy has produced some of the most talented teens in the world.
Wayne Rooney made his Everton debut back in 2002, Eric Dier – prior to his national team heroics – was an Evertonian and, incredibly, England’s U20 World Cup winners were made up of 5 Everton prospects (Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jonjoe Kenny, Kieran Dowell, Callum Connolly and Ademola Lookman).
Not only have Calvert-Lewin, Kenny and Lookman cemented their places in the Everton squad, but they are also the prime examples of a pathway trodden more by Evertonian’s than of any other team.
From a precedent set by those who have came before them to Everton supporters and how they love their own, Everton’s U23s are, as Unsworth said, the best in the country and are soon to have the crown to prove it.
So, what of this seasons prospects who are on the cusp of success? Who are the class of 2019?
Season ticket holder, boyhood blue, exceptional defender: Morgan Feeney is the real deal. If Everton’s U23 win the Premier League then Feeney, as captain, is bound to make the step up to an Everton team that could do with his defensive qualities.
Fraser Hornby is another player who has shown immense promise this season as has Joao Neves who, some would stress, should have deposed Maarten Stekelenburg a long time ago.
Nevertheless, Everton look set for a secure future.
So, with Everton’s U23s one point clear at the top of the table with a match in hand, we hope they can secure not only the championship, but also Everton’s future. No pressure.
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