David Unsworth says the sight of a host of Academy graduates being given a chance by Ronald Koeman in Everton’s first team is acting as a “powerful motivational tool” for his in-form Under-23s.
Unsworth’s team head into tonight’s Premier League International Cup clash with Wolfsburg fresh from Friday’s scintillating 3-0 triumph over Manchester City and seeking to extend a six-match winning run.
With a Premier League 2 game against Sunderland to follow on Friday, the manager is poised to send out a youthful side to face the Germans tonight at Southport FC's Merseyrail Community Stadium (7pm kick-off).
But Unsworth expects whichever 11 players he selects to go all out for victory and insists the Club’s progressive ethos demands he gives all of his emerging talents their chance to shine.
“We talk about the opportunities for young players in our first team, so we have to live and die by that as well and we will be giving a lot of players the opportunity to perform against Wolfsburg," Unsworth told evertontv.
“The players who are not playing are desperate to play: if that is Under-18s or players in the Under-23 squad, it does not matter.
“They are all desperate to be Everton footballers and when they see there is a pathway and light at the end of the tunnel, and they see their teammates from last season playing in our first team, that is a very powerful motivational tool to go into our side and produce performances.”
The Under-23s’ swashbuckling win at highly-regarded City represented the latest in a succession of emphatic results and displays.
They put four goals past both Tottenham and Arsenal, beat Chelsea 3-0 and won 1-0 away against a vastly-experienced Derby County side.
All this after Unsworth’s team started the campaign by sharing a goalless draw with West Ham and going down to a 1-0 defeat by Leicester.
With a whole host of the players who won last season’s Premier League 2 title currently out on loan or promoted to Ronald Koeman’s first-team squad, Unsworth had expected his new crop to require a period of acclimatisation.
He has been thrilled, then, with the comprehensive manner in which the young Toffees responded to their early setbacks.
“All the credit goes to the players,” said Unsworth, who has seen his side score 17 goals in six matches after drawing blanks in those opening two fixtures.
“We have worked tirelessly on the training ground from the start of pre-season trying to put those things right. We knew what we had and where our deficiencies were.
“The players, to their great credit, have taken on board the information and applied it. It is all well and good giving players information but they are the ones who have to step over the white line, produce those performances and put things right.
“There wasn’t a great deal wrong. But when the bar is as high as it has been – and it keeps getting higher – what we strive to do is get the players up to speed as quickly as possible.
“We expect to win every game and we have done over the period of time I have been here. We have had... and do have... a very talented group of players.
“We are different this year, with eight players in the Championship and others in the first team, which means we have basically started again with a new group.
“This club churns out individual talent year after year – and if that is not the case we have a wonderful opportunity, in that the board afford me the privilege to go out and bring players into our group that make us stronger but also have the potential to play in the first team.
“It is a great recipe for a very successful side. We look for performances and wins. That is something we seem to talk about all the time but we always strive to be the best team we can be and the best individuals – and we want to win as well, because that is why we are in the job.”
The meeting with Wolfsburg is the first of three group matches for Everton in a competition which sends English academy teams into combat with their foreign counterparts.
Derby County and Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb complete the Blues’ pool, with the six group winners and two best second-placed sides progressing to the quarter-finals.
With qualification places at a premium, then, Unsworth's team understand the value of immediately securing three points. And they may be aided in their cause by Republic of Ireland international James McCarthy.
The midfielder is nearing full fitness following a long-standing knee injury and boss Koeman last week said he hoped McCarthy would be ready to feature in tonight’s game at Southport.
“If anybody (from the first team) has played, they have always come down and acquitted themselves well, bought into what we are all about and how we want to play,” added Unsworth.
“It does not matter if we are playing a foreign team or a local team. We want to beat everybody… that never changes.”
Everton Season Ticket Holders and Official Members get free entry to Under-23s matches.