Everton Under-23s regained the Premier League 2 crown they won in 2016-17 when they beat Brighton & Hove Albion at Goodison Park on Monday.
Manager David Unsworth reflects on a fabulous night and exceptional campaign for his young charges.
David, How does it feel to be Premier League 2 Champions again?
Really, really proud. Proud of the players, proud of the staff. It was a great night for the Football Club and I must thank the supporters who turned up in their numbers and got behind the lads.
It’s terrific to work with young men who want to learn and want to develop and want to win football matches.
They have been magnificent for us this season. They’re great friends off the pitch as well, they all get on very well together, and they are a really honest bunch. When you see it all come together as it did against Brighton, it makes you very proud.
What did you say to the players before the title showdown with Brighton at Goodison?
Before the start of the game I didn’t do a team talk. I played them a lovely video that showed a bit of the history of the Club and the great players we’ve had.
It had Z-Cars, played by a string quartet, in the background and it was a bit emotional and really showed the boys the people and the history that has gone before them at our fantastic club.
Then at half-time I reminded them that 10 months of exceptionally hard work was now condensed into 45 minutes of football.
They work so hard, really hard, and they deserved it. I was so thrilled they saw it over the line.
Brighton are a really good team and they’ve had a fantastic season but we had good opportunities to make it more comfortable than it was. It was lovely to finish with a win and a clean sheet, which is what our season has been built on.
That’s two Premier League 2 titles in three seasons now David and with two totally different teams…
Yes, that’s right and that’s the job we do. I will always have an ever-changing team but even though the personnel will change I always look for the same consistent performances.
We know what it takes to win at this level and what it takes to produce young players. Sometimes players need time to bed in at this level and that was last season for us. This year we’ve really pushed on.
When you look at the money the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal spend on their Under-23 players, it’s a wonderful achievement for our players.
What is the next challenge for this particular group of players?
The challenge is individual now. I have always said, and I will never change my opinion, that at this level if you have a successful, winning team you will produce more players.
Where those players go to is then down to other factors – opportunity in our first team, opportunity in someone else’s first team – but it’s a springboard.
Every one of the players who won it in 2017 is earning a good living from the game and some of them are in our first-team squad.
They all came through together at Everton and if you have a winning team you will produce more players than you would if you were not being affected by the results.
Everybody is here to develop. Whether that’s the first team, the Under-23s, the Under-18s and so on, all the way down. But I have always wanted to win every football match I played or coached, since I was a kid.
This is Everton Football Club. We are all here to get better and we are all here to win. It’s all about learning to win, creating a winning environment, a winning culture and a team spirit.
Everybody at the football club is so proud of this achievement…
The Chairman was on the phone straight away!
He always gives me amazing support. I have spoken to Farhad as well and the support from the Board is fantastic. I spoke to Marcel and Denise after the game. too.
Joe Royle came back to see the match and I know that Leighton Baines was there… but that’s what we’re about. We’re family.
Your immediate football family is your staff – this success is great for them, too…
Yes, it is, and we have a great spirit. I have worked with John Ebbrell now for a number of years and Franny Jeffers has come in and developed into a fantastic coach.
Alan Kelly is the best goalkeeping coach I have worked with, he’s outstanding, and what he’s done for the young keepers is brilliant. They are lucky to have Alan around.
To get Baz (Mick Rathbone) back at the club working with us was just a fantastic appointment to work along a brilliant physio, Joe Hinnigan. There’s a real togetherness among us and we work long, hard hours and do things in the correct manner.
Finally David, how did you celebrate last Monday night?
I had a glass of wine and went to bed. I was exhausted and relieved! After 10 months of hard work, going into town to celebrate wasn’t for me!
We’ll celebrate as a staff when the time is right and we’ll bring everyone together who has contributed. That’s very important to me – that the people who work together day in, day out share the success.