Neil Dewsnip - Within Sight
The youngsters who are lucky enough to be part of the Academy know they are within sight of making their first team debut at one of the top clubs in England, and there are plenty of examples before them of players who have done just that.
A steady stream of players have made the step up from Academy prospect to first team player since 1997, with a number of those going on to be regulars at both first team and international level.
The likes of Richard Dunne, Wayne Rooney and Leon Osman owe their success to being given the opportunity to play in the first team at Everton. Dunne and Rooney have gone on to become key players for the Republic of Ireland and England respectively, while Osman’s form for the Blues has seen calls for him to be rewarded with an England cap.
But as Academy Head Coach Neil Dewsnip is keen to stress, the chances only come if the players are up to scratch.
“The boys will only get opportunities if they’re good enough and David Moyes will tell you that as well.
“Historically, we’ve had a great reputation of producing our own players and I’m sure that everyone from the Chairman down to the supporters would want that to continue.”
Producing players for the first team is the aim of the Academy. But while Neil is satisfied with the current state of the youth set up, the target is always to do better.
“The challenge for us at the Academy is to maintain the flow of players reaching the first team but also to a) increase the number of players we get through, and b) the quality of those players as well.
“You produce a world standard player in Wayne Rooney and that’s very exciting. You want to do that more and more and more. That’s the challenge we have ahead of us.”
There is no magic formula for spotting who will become a top player. Every club has, at some point, passed on a player who then went on to greatness. Dutch legend Ruud Gullit had a trial with Ipswich Town but was let go by Bobby Robson, while arguably the greatest footballer ever, Diego Maradona, could have joined Sheffield United as a 17 year old in 1978, only for the Blades board to decide the £200,000 asking price was too high for a man who went on to win the World Cup in 1986.
Working with the Academy, Neil is often asked how he and the rest of the coaching staff go about spotting talent in a young player. Neil says if he knew the secret, he would be a very rich man.
“If I could answer that question, I could be worth a million pounds. There’s no fancy answer. You have an insight to all the players at whatever age you come across them. Our under 9 coach will tell you that a player has a chance to achieve a certain level, but you just don’t know.
“The clever answer would be, the older they get, the easier it gets to say yes he will or no he won’t make it.”
Even with players who are part of the first team at 18 or 19, identifying their potential and helping them realise from a young age is not easy. James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe are two Academy graduates who have established their places in the senior squad, but even in their case, it was not always obvious they would reach the level they have.
“We always knew Victor and Vaughany had talent and lots of it, but if we went back to when they were under 13 or under 14, they weren’t at the top, the first or second name that you would be given in terms of that particular age group and I’m sure they’d agree with me
“All credit to them, they’ve changed the rules. They’ve had the ability and the desire to actually succeed where others have failed and drifted away.”
By Andrew Tuft