David Unsworth says the intensity of Everton Under-23s’ week-long pre-season training camp in La Manga will provide an invaluable mental and physical test for the young talents in his squad.
Several players who featured for the Blues’ Under-18s last season have made the trip to Spain. Their itinerary includes of a series of demanding training sessions and a friendly match against Swindon Town’s first team on Thursday.
A strong contingent of Unsworth’s 2018-19 double-winning side have linked up with Everton’s senior squad, meanwhile, with eight members of that team featuring in Sunday’s historic clash with Kariobangi Sharks in Nairobi, Kenya.
Unsworth revealed his pride in seeing those players – namely Lewis Gibson, Nathan Broadhead, Fraser Hornby, Morgan Feeney, Josh Bowler, Dennis Adeniran, Ryan Astley and Nathangelo Markelo – perform on such a stage. More than 60,000 fans filled the Kasarani Stadium as the Toffees became the first Premier League team to play in Kenya.
Unsworth’s primary focus, however, is on overseeing his charges in La Manga. The squad kicked off the week by undertaking an exacting programme on Monday, which consisted of four separate training sessions.
As well as developing his players’ technique, fitness levels and tactical awareness, Everton Giant Unsworth says the seven-day camp offers an important glimpse into their characters.
“It’s a massive week for them,” he told evertontv. “We have got a very, very young squad.
“A lot of players have gone with the first team, which is brilliant.
“I was delighted that Marco [Silva] took so many players, it’s great they are getting that opportunity to play in those games, with such exposure. I hope they grasp their chance.
“For our group here, most days we do four sessions, and the level of work the players put in is incredible.
“The intensity of the training is there but also the extra work we do physically in the gym – it’s a real test.
"It’s a test of not only their physicality but their mentality as well. When you’re really tired, can you go again, can you dig deep?
“It’s great for all the staff to learn more about the players’ personalities. This camp is a terrific gauge to see whether they are ready for the intensity of this team and this level of football.”
Everton Under-23s put together an excellent series of results at the end of last season, with a run of six victories and one draw from eight matches propelling them to a second Premier League 2 title in three years.
The young Blues then added the Premier League Cup to complete an unprecedented trophy double, with captain Feeney heading the winner in the final against Newcastle United in May.
Unsworth believes his team’s barnstorming finish to the campaign was testament to the players’ fitness levels and the value of the hard yards put in during pre-season.
“We take pride in how fit we are as a team,” he explained. "It important to the way we play and the way we press.
“The players work very hard in pre-season and throughout the whole campaign.
“It’s no surprise we get fitter and stronger the longer the season goes on.
“As a player, you always feel great when you are super fit. And you have to be at this level, to go for 95 minutes.”
Unsworth heads up a tight-knit coaching team which includes former Everton teammates John Ebbrell and Franny Jeffers and ex-Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper Alan Kelly.
And the manager revealed how he and his staff are relishing the opportunity to shape another successful Everton Under-23 team.
“We know the standards we have set previously, which we use as great experience to educate the next team,” added Unsworth.
“It’s a great challenge for the staff, to get these players up to the level required in the quickest possible time.
“The quicker we do that, the more games we’ll win and the more chance they’ll have to be top young players.”