Under-18s coach Paul Tait is backing an Everton-inspired England Under-21 team to win the Toulon Tournament on Saturday when they take on Mexico in the final (6.30pm kick-off).
The Blues will be well represented in Martigues with Jonjoe Kenny, Callum Connolly, Kieran Dowell and Tom Davies all part of the Three Lions squad. And Tait has been in the south of France to see the Academy graduates he coached during their progression through Everton's respected youth system.
All four players have contributed to England's run to the final, with Connolly, Kenny and Dowell starting the 3-1 semi-final victory over Scotland Under-21s for whom Fraser Hornby - another Everton Academy talent who Tait has coached - featured.
“I was out in Toulon for six days as part of my Pro-Licence,” Tait explained. “It was good to see them playing for England and they were all involved in the game I watched. I had the chance to watch them in training as well and then spend some time with them afterwards, so it was really good.
“It will be a tough game in the final because England and Mexico are probably the best two teams out there from what I’ve seen. But we’ve got four Everton lads in the England side so I would fancy us to win.”
Tait joined the other Pro-Licence coaches at several England training sessions in France and he was glad to report that the attitude and application of the Everton players was first-class.
Each of the four had played regularly all season before joining up with England for the tournament – Davies made 43 appearances for Everton, Kenny featured 25 times for the Blues, Dowell played 32 games for Nottingham Forest and Connolly racked up 36 games for Ipswich Town.
“Anyone who knows these lads knows how professional they are and they’re not thinking about time off after a long, hard season, they are just looking to win the tournament with England,” said Tait.
“One of the tasks we were given was to study the England players in training and assess their character. The feedback from all the Pro-Licence coaches about the Everton lads made me very proud.'
England safely negotiated a group stage involving China, Qatar and Mexico before beating Scotland in the last four to reach Saturday’s final, which saw Connolly grab the game's equaliser.
Aidy Boothroyd’s team will be looking to win the prestigious competition for the third year in succession, and for the seventh time in total, and Tait believes the Everton boys will be ready for the challenge.
“They’ll be saying, ‘bring it on’ because three of them won a World Cup with the Under-20s last summer so they’ve got that tournament experience with England and also that first-team experience with our club and their loan clubs.
“It’s fantastic for Everton and when you consider that Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman aren’t there, we could easily have had six players in the squad.
“We had Fraser Hornby in the Scotland team, too, and he played well against England. He looked a threat and held the ball up well. He was giving two years away in terms of age, so it’s been a good tournament for him as well.”