David Unsworth says a glance at Everton’s recent teamsheets leaves him bursting with pride.
The Blues included as many as five Academy graduates in their matchday 18 at Manchester United on Tuesday night - Ross Barkley, Tom Davies, Matthew Pennington, Jonjoe Kenny and Joe Williams - while Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, two players to have also progressed through Unsworth’s Under-23s ranks, were also involved.
It followed the news that Davies had signed a new five-year contract with the Club on Monday, and Unsworth admits it’s a spell that’s left everyone on the Academy side of Finch Farm with a real spring in their step.
“It’s been a wonderful couple of weeks for the Academy and the feeling is so strong, so together, and it really is brilliant when you see the end product of these lads getting the opportunity to play in our first team,” he told evertontv. “As the Under-23s, we’ve had an unbelievable season from a performance point of view but obviously getting players in our first team is our main objective, at the same time as developing a winning mentality. That’s important, too, because it’s Everton and because we have to win.
“It’s brilliant to see, not just for the Under-23s but the whole Academy as well. The Academy produces great players and this is the right club for young Premier League footballers to come and develop and enjoy their journey with us. We produce these young footballers and there’s no better place to play.”
Since taking over as Everton manager last summer, Ronald Koeman has regularly stated his willingness to give youngsters opportunities - but only if they’ve proved they have what it takes to cut it at the top level.
To that end, Unsworth says it’s a credit to the players they have caught the Dutchman’s eye.
He said: “We’ve got a manager at the moment who is not afraid to play the young lads and not afraid to put them in in threes and fours and fives, and it’s just so refreshing.
“It also says everything about them as individuals, it says everything about the programme that we have in place from very, very young age groups up to Under-23 level.
“It’s very much a team here. We have a group of coaches who are so passionate, who love this Club and we all strive for the same thing, which is to sit in the stands on a Saturday and see our homegrown players develop, play, be successful and win in our first team.”
As for Davies, Unsworth has saluted the 18-year-old for grasping his first-team opportunity with both hands and says a deal to the summer of 2022 is just reward for his dedication and effort.
“Tom’s had a brilliant season,” he added. “He’s got himself in the first team and he’s stayed there, which is obviously the next stage for a young player - keeping that spot and racking up appearances that warrant you getting a new contract. He’s done great and we’re obviously all very proud of him.”