Neil Dewsnip - Youth Importance
Everton Football Club has always had, at it’s heart, a thriving youth system. For decades, the spine of many an Everton side consisted of home grown players.
From Brian Labone, Colin Harvey and Joe Royle in the 1960s, through to Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe today, Evertonians have long loved to see young players make their way through the youth system and into the first team.
Today, youth football is arguably more vital than ever. With the increasing number of billionaires buying football clubs up and down the country, not only is it harder for many clubs to compete financially, but there is also a danger of clubs losing their identity. A strong youth system can solve both of these problems.
Providing players that would otherwise cost tens of millions of pounds and giving local lads the chance to represent their beloved teams, a side’s youth system plays a pivotal role in the long-term health of a football club. Everton’s youngsters learn their trade at the Academy.
One of the key roles in player development belongs to Neil Dewsnip. Neil is Head Coach at the Academy, and oversees the programme that has produced the likes of Osman, Vaughan and Wayne Rooney.
Neil has been with the Everton since the Academy was established in 1997. Previously, he worked at the FA’s national school Lilleshall, which produced players at the calibre of Michael Owen, Scott Parker and Joe Cole, as well as working as an FA regional coach. But when the Academy system was established, Neil was brought to Everton by Academy Director Ray Hall.
Neil said: “I worked full time at Lilleshall and as a regional coach for the FA Then there was a mandate from the FA to empower the clubs to set up academies and Ray asked me if I would like the position of Assistant Academy Director. I had the responsibility for the schoolboy players aged between 9 and 16.
“My role has changed now as my title is Head Coach. I oversee the programme, which has evolved from just being about football coaching into a million other areas, such as physical development, mental development and lifestyle issues, the whole package really. I’ve been at the Academy from the word go.”
There are a number of different ways in which youngsters need to be coached. It is vital that the staff at the Academy work not only on the player’s football ability, but also their fitness, their academic work and ensuring the boys have as normal a teenage life as possible. But as Neil admits, it’s not always easy to find the balance.
“It’s an interesting argument because every coach who specialises in a different area wants their little piece of time. The most important thing that I try to remember is that football must always come first.
“Without the football the other areas aren’t as relevant. The football comes first and foremost and that must be the biggest part of any player’s diet. The other areas then support that.”
Fortunately, the needs of every area of a player’s development are served at Finch Farm, the state-of-the-art training complex that both the senior side and the youth system moved to in October 2007.
The site in Halewood boasts everything from indoor and outdoor pitches to teaching rooms, with the youngsters regularly mixing with the first team players. Neil is delighted to be at Finch Farm, and says the benefits are almost endless.
“You could do a thesis on how Finch Farm has benefited us. The facilities are everything we would hope for and they cater for all the coaches needs. In terms of coaching, we can do different practices and get more access to the players, getting them out of school and so on.
“But even better than that for the youth players, it’s the knock on effect of being in and around the senior players. They get shouted over to fill in and play in training games, to fill in on certain practices and the senior staff gets to know the young players.
“That’s wonderful for the staff and gives the young players more opportunity to progress.”
By Andrew Tuft