Everton Academy Director Joel Waldron recently spoke to us about his role and the Academy's vision...
Tell us about your pathway to your current position…
The Under-18s have had another fine season and still have plenty to play for in their league...
After previously working on a part-time basis in recruitment I turned full-time in 2011 as Academy Co-ordinator alongside Alan Irvine, who was then Academy Director.
I joined around the outset of the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan, a concept driven by the Premier League and the clubs aimed at increasing the number and quality of players coming through the system).
I was fortunate enough to learn a lot from Alan, and subsequent Academy Directors, supporting them in my role as Head of Academy Operations. Most recently I stepped up after the previous Academy Director left in March 2017.
What’s your main remit as Academy Director?
Our overall vision, obviously, is to provide the first-team manager with Academy-developed players and when that happens it’s the ultimate achievement for us. We are currently on a run of more than a thousand consecutive games with an Academy-produced player in the first-team match squad.
Ultimately it is my responsibility to ensure that the Academy delivers on its Long-Term Performance Plan which, broadly speaking, sees that I retain oversight of all the core functions of the Academy. As a group of staff, we work hard to ensure that we continue to recruit boys with potential from our local area, principally, but also selectively from further afield at the older age groups.
Once we have the boys, we are obsessed with having in place the best possible development programme for them to maximise their technical, tactical, physical and psychological capabilities. We work closely as a staff and alongside Marcel Brands to discuss the plans and pathways regularly for the players at our Academy.
Away from the pitch, we seek to provide the boys with a first-class provision in respect of our academic, welfare and personal development programmes, all amongst an environment and culture that is in keeping with the values, standards and expectations of Everton.
And, of course, in a business sense we need to operate safely, effectively and efficiently so that the Club sees a return on its investment in the Academy.
Yes, we are most pleased with the progression we’ve seen in the boys individually and how the season has played out generally.
Winning in competitions at that age level isn’t the be-all and end-all of what we are about but doing well does reflect positively on the work that we do and the quality of players that we’ve got. It also reflects well on all the coaches and staff here who have contributed to the development of the players over the years, not just the ones who are working with them this season.
Playing for the Under-18s is just the latest step of a long-term development programme for these players before they hopefully progress into the professional game.
How closely do you work with Marcel Brands?
On a personal level I speak with Marcel daily about all things Academy, but particularly about players and the pathway. Marcel has been very involved with the Academy since he arrived at the Club, which is great for us as staff because we benefit from his obvious qualities and experience.
Equally, he challenges us to be as good as we can be, as - like us all - he wants the best for the Club, which is absolutely how it should be. It’s important for the staff, the players and their parents to see the Director of Football around the place and very much involved in what we are trying to achieve on a daily basis.
Clearly not every player will play for the first team – do we have a support mechanism for the boys who get released?
Yes, we’re very mindful that not every boy will progress into full-time football, therefore we have a dedicated exit and release strategy in place across the age groups. It’s something we really care about.
We try to operate on what we call a ‘no surprises’ policy and provide constant feedback to the players and their families, so that if a boy is released it shouldn’t be a bolt from the blue.
Boys will leave us, that’s an inevitable part of it, but we do all we can to help them find new clubs and provide an excellent level of after-care and support when they leave us.
Is it important that a lot of ex-Everton players are on the Academy coaching staff?
Well, first and foremost we need to make sure that we’ve got the best people for the job in every role and we’re confident in the quality of coaches who work with the boys. But, yes, it’s great that a lot of them have an affinity with Everton Football Club through being here as players.