Joe Royle says Everton’s band of young stars have infused the team with “energy” – and the Club is “proud” of its reputation for breeding homegrown talent.
Thirteen of the 275 players who appeared in the weekend’s Premier League fixtures were English and aged 21 or under – and four of those featured for Everton in the 3-2 Goodison Park victory over Watford.
Royle, who held the honour of being the Toffees’ youngest player for 39 years after making his debut aged 16 against Blackpool in 1966, is currently lending his counsel to boss David Unsworth and was a thrilled observer as Everton overturned a two-goal deficit to beat the Hornets.
Jonjoe Kenny’s rambunctious display particularly excited Royle, who also witnessed 19-year-old Tom Davies deliver a dynamic 90-minute shift. Ademola Lookman came off the bench to create a goal for Oumar Niasse, while another substitute, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, struck to level the match at 2-2.
“What they bring to the team is energy,” Royle told evertonfc.com. "Even if it is short in other departments, youth will automatically give you that energy.
“It was good to see and it is a great statistic. We are proud of our record here with young players.
"I am still very proud that I was Everton’s youngest player for such a long time, and we have Jose Baxter here, who has my record now!
“The fans have wanted to see Jonjoe given a chance. He did not want to go on loan, he wanted to play for Everton.
“The easy option would have been to send him out, but he wanted to stay and play for Everton and he has got his chance now.
“He knows he has a fight on because Seamus (Coleman) is working his way back. But, I tell you what, once Jonjoe has got the shirt, he will do his best to keep it for as long as possible."
After introducing Lookman and Calvert-Lewin to telling effect, Unsworth sent on Aaron Lennon for the closing stages of the match against Watford.
The winger’s neat piece of skill in the box drew a foul from defender Jose Holebas to earn the penalty from which Leighton Baines won the game.
Royle was similarly canny with his use of substitutes – in his first match in charge of Everton the former manager swapped defender Matt Jackson for striker Paul Rideout at half-time, and watched Rideout seal a famous 2-0 win over Liverpool – and insists the ability to influence the game from the bench is an essential skill for any manager.
“The three players made a difference at the weekend, which is all you can ask from your substitutes,” said Royle. “They gave us pace and energy.
“Young Ademola will have been slightly aggrieved at not starting after his performance in France. Dominic Calvert-Lewin needed a breather – and will still need resting at times – and made a difference when he came on.
“What more can you ask for?
"And then Aaron came on and won the penalty. I like Aaron, I have a lot of time for him. He bubbles and gets on with it, and always puts a shift in.
“Your substitutions are typically down to identifying what is required at a particular time. If you need pace and energy in the team… and you have pace and energy on the bench, it is in front of you.
“Sometimes, it is just instinct, and you made a substitution that changes a game completely. It does happen, sometimes, a player will come on and his first touch will be a goal. That is luck as well as instinct!”
Royle’s successful start against Liverpool back in November 1994 proved the catalyst for a terrific run of form that ended with the Toffees winning the FA Cup at the end of the campaign.
He is hoping Sunday’s dramatic finale can have a similarly uplifting effect on today’s team.
“You have seen an upsurge in the passion and energy,” added Royle.
“I came home from Lyon at 2am and pulled into an empty garage. As I was leaving, an Everton fan who had also returned from Lyon, ran up to me and said ‘tell Unsy we are with him, we can see the players care’.
"Coming back to Goodison, it was important we had the crowd on our side. And I think the way the players performed showed you that.
"The passion was in the team."