Joel Waldron believes the quality of the recruitment and coaching in Everton’s youth setup will ensure the Club can continue to boast one of the leading academies in English football for years to come.
Everton’s Academy Manager has highlighted coaching and recruitment as two areas of continued focus for the Blues at USM Finch Farm.
It is now 1,004 games and counting in which an Academy graduate has featured in Everton’s first team matchday squad
– with the 1,000-game milestone having been reached last month at Old Trafford in the Premier League game against Manchester United.
“Our Recruitment is big and it's very important for us,” Waldron reflected. “We start young and invest hugely in this region as this area will always produce players. We also look a bit further afield, too, and not all of our players are from Merseyside. We extend across to areas of West Yorkshire and as far south as Stoke, Wales and up north near Lancashire.
“We have done well over the years and local recruitment continues to be our bread and butter. That will never change and we need to continue doing well in what is a very competitive area.
“Of course, we have developed players as well. We have a great set of coaching staff helping the players here, with many of the coaching staff having come through the Everton Academy or played for Everton. This is important in terms of there being a culture.
Academy Manager Joel Waldron
“David Unsworth’s primary duties are as Under-23 manager but, as Director of Coaching, he will also be working every afternoon with the boys on the grass or working with some of the coaches. Sean Lundon, our Head of Academy Coaching, has also been here for many years and brings a wealth of experience into our Academy.
“We have strong coaching leadership. Collectively, we are a solid group and that’s key to delivering a programme which guides and develops players.
“What we have here at Everton is a pathway. That’s fundamental. The achievement for the Club in reaching the landmark of featuring an Academy graduate in a matchday squad for 1,000 successive competitive matches is one of which we are all proud. It demonstrates that young players get an opportunity at Everton and that’s important for our identity.”
Lifelong Blue Waldron joined the staff six years ago and he has occupied various positions within the Academy, witnessing first-hand the growth and development of the infrastructure within the Club’s youth setup.
“I’m not a coach by trade,” he explained. “When I started I was working more on the recruitment and general administration, then I worked closely with [former Academy Director] Alan Irvine, who put a lot of faith in me.
“As the Academy has grown, I’ve moved into what has become the operations area. I’m not on the grass delivering any coaching sessions but I make a conscious effort to be out there at least every other day to see what is being delivered. On a Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be at games that we have right across the Academy programme to see how the boys are doing first-hand.
“We have had to establish good staffing structures, so my role now is to work with the Heads of Coaching, Recruitment, Sports Science and Medicine, Education and Welfare, Safeguarding and Performance. We pull together on a daily basis to ensure we strive to be the best we can be.”