Ray Hall - Success
The work done at the Academy is vital to the future of Everton. There are now over 25 full time Academy staff, ranging from football coaches to schoolteachers and everything in between. But it is work that often goes unappreciated by the masses, who only see the end product of the hard work.
What is clear is that Everton’s Academy is highly successful. Not only in terms of players who make the first team, but Everton have a record in the various youth tournaments that would be the envy of most other clubs.
Since 1997, Everton have reached two FA Youth Cup finals, winning one in 1998. They have been semi-finalists on one other occasion. They have been North West Championship winners at both under 19 and under 17 level, and under 19 semi-finalists twice, as well as winning the FA Premier Reserve League (North) section with a squad of mainly Academy players.
For Ray Hall, the biggest reward is seeing his young players break through at first team level. That is the goal of the Academy, above all else. Each year, the aim is to have at least one member of the Academy make their debut for the senior side, and, so far that goal has been met comfortably.
“There are plenty of people who’ve done it and I think the manager is okay with the fact that if the boys are good enough, they’ll play.”
At first team level, the pressure to perform immediately is immense. Competition in the Premier League is huge, especially the European places that Everton are fighting for. Players need to be at the top of their game, every game, regardless of their age. Ray, with 17 years experience behind him, understands that, but admits he wishes it was different.
“I have two daughters, and I’m not sure they could have handled the kind of pressure these young lads have been under at 16 or 17 years of age, were 40,000 people are cheering.
“I went to a game and there were two Everton supporters behind me and they were cursing Victor. I’m thinking, if you only knew the work that went in to getting him to this stage. Victor was still only 19 years of age, you have to give him a chance, but it’s everybody’s right to do that.”
The art of preparing players for the first team may have changed over Ray’s time at Everton, but the objective hasn’t. For the good of the future of the club, Ray and the staff at Finch Farm will keep working to create the next Leon Osman, Wayne Rooney or James Vaughan.
“I used to watch three or four youth team games a day. With 22 players in each game, plus substitutes, for 17 years, I’ve probably seen millions of players in my time. Wayne was the best I’ve seen, but I’d say we have players currently in the Academy who could achieve what Wayne has.”
“We set our stall out at the beginning of every season to provide for the manager a minimum of one player for our first team squad and fortunately we’ve achieved that goal for the last 11 years.”
By Andrew Tuft