Under-18s 0-1 West Brom
Kevin Sheedy has challenged his under-18s squad to learn from the mistakes of last season ahead of what promises to be a demanding 2012/13 campaign.
New rules means teams can longer field the three overage players they have been permitted to in the past, while the odd fixture crossover means older players will sometimes be lost to the new under-21 reserve side.
For Sheedy it means more chances for everyone and he is looking to his second-year boys to lead the way.
“It is a big year for those boys,” said the Irishman, whose side take on West Brom at Finch Farm in their league opener on Saturday.
“We have taken seven first years and have probably got a group of about 17 players. Now they have scrapped the overage player rule it means the first year lads will all get regular games and it is up to them to handle it.
“The second year lads will knuckle down and work towards getting a professional contract, whether it is at Everton or somewhere else, so we are looking to them to hit the ground running.
“All the players have had an opportunity in pre-season. We obviously went to Austria with the first team and that was great for them. We have had some decent results, played about six games and everyone is looking forward to the start of the season against West Brom.”
If there is one area Sheedy admitted he was keen to improve on from last season then it was the team’s defensive record.
While always entertaining, the under-18s were too often squandering their own good work by giving goals away softly.
“We scored goals and always looked capable of scoring,” he added. “But defensively we weren’t the best.
“That is not talking about the defenders specifically, it is more defending as a team and we have done a lot of work on that over the past few weeks.
“The season before when we won the league we were great defensively and were winning games 1-0. Last year we were losing games 4-3 and things like that and we will look to tighten things up.”
West Brom provide the first opposition this Saturday and Sheedy is expecting a game for the purist.
“They traditionally produce good teams,” he said. “They ask their players to get the ball down and pass, very much like we do here, so it should be a good game to start off with.”