Neil Dewsnip - Unearthing Talent
There are 38 football Academies in England, each with around 100 boys between nine and 16 attached to them.
Each Academy is aiming to unearth the next Ryan Giggs, Ledley King or Gabriel Agbonlahor, a player to represent the team for perhaps their whole career, as Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe may well do for Everton.
But just as important is developing players to play week in, week out in the top flight or beyond. Of the 20 Premier League sides, around three quarters of them regularly begin games with a number of players who came through their Academy.
Teams like Aston Villa, Manchester City and Manchester United can boast a backbone consisting of home grown players, as of course can Everton.
But despite each club wanting the best young players to learn their trade in their youth set up, Everton’s Academy Head Coach Neil Dewsnip admits the various centres are often in touch with each other, discussing a number of issues surrounding youth football.
They are helped by the more relaxed atmosphere of Academy life, far away from the high-pressure world of Premier League management.
“We have a healthy contact with all the clubs really. We tend to discuss philosophies as opposed to actual players.
“You’ll appreciate its not quite as competitive as what it would be at the manager’s end of things so there’s a more openness in terms of trends and philosophies and so on.”
Prior to the announcement of Fabio Capello’s first England squad, there was a lot of talk about who would or would not be included. With the Italian’s appointment, many people, fans and pundits alike, called for the introduction of a whole host of new, less experienced players, all of who would have made their way through the Academy system
Talents including Manchester City’s Micah Richards and Aston Villa’s Agbonlahor and Ashley Young were all included in Capello’s first squad, and all are products of the Academy system: Richards and Agbonlahor with their current clubs, while Young made the grade at Watford before a big-money move to the Midlands.
Despite the quality of the young, English players in the Premier League, there has been much criticism of the way in which footballers in this country are developed. But Neil Dewsnip feel that while the system may not be perfect, you cannot argue with its success.
“I’m sure there could be improvements made with the Academy as there could be with everything.
He continued: “But if you asked, ‘do Academies work?’ Then the answer is yes.
“If you look at the players who are now going into the England team, they’ve all come through the Academies, so the system does work.”
Neil also feels the Academy system at Everton in particular is working very well. From his contact with his counterparts at other clubs, Neil has been able to discover the standard of players elsewhere, and believes the boys at Everton are some of the best. Not only in the country, but in Europe.
“The top end of our players are as good as anybody’s in England and probably Europe as well.
“The aim would be to produce some of the top players in our country on a regular basis and I think we’re doing that. The challenge we have is to increase the quantity.”
Arsenal’s Academy has been criticised for the amount of foreign-born talent it produces. Everton have a number of players in their Academy from overseas, but Neil is adamant that the birthplace of a player is irrelevant as long as the player is good enough.
“I think what’s important is that we have as many talented players in the Academy as possible, whether they be local or foreign.
"The job is to have as many talented players as possible, regardless of where they are from.”
Attracting young players from home or abroad is made that little bit easier every time a new player makes their debut. Since 1997, when the Academy was established, numerous boys have gone on to feature for Everton's senior side.
Neil agrees that seeing players go from under 9 level, through the ranks and into the first team makes life at Everton all the more attractive to a young player, as they know it is possible to reach the top.
“Without a doubt. It gives us great profile and if they can actually be successful as our players have been, that makes us more attractive to the young ones.
“It’s always competitive between ourselves and Liverpool. If we wanted to recruit at the older ages from a distance, which is the way of the world now, our record gives us a better chance to do so.”
By Andrew Tuft