Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth believes his young players being given the opportunity to train with Carlo Ancelotti’s first team will have provided an “invaluable” experience.
The Italian’s training sessions and matchday squads were regularly supplemented by Under-23s players following the Premier League restart.
Teenage defender Jarrad Branthwaite delivered a series of impressive performances as he played the final four Premier League games of the season, while combative midfielder Beni Baningime and powerful striker Ellis Simms earned places among Ancelotti's substitutes.
Unsworth – whose full Under-23s cohort return to training at USM Finch Farm next week – explained his efforts in ensuring the Blues’ emerging talents were ready to make a contribution in first-team sessions when needed.
He said: “We had a core group of Under-23 players - Jarrad Branthwaite, Kyle John, Dennis Adeniran, Beni Baningime, Nathangelo Markelo and Ellis Simms - and when the first team needed a player for a specific role or position in training, Carlo would call upon them.
“In such unprecedented times you have to react quickly and be ready and that’s what we made sure the players were.
“They’ve all been training with the first team at some point, which is brilliant for those young players.
“Whichever ones Carlo didn’t need, I took them for training.
“In fairness, that [youngsters training with the first team] happens anyway at our Football Club. They always get an opportunity to gain some invaluable experience and showcase what they’re all about.”
Unsworth also played an important role off the pitch during the coronavirus lockdown.
As part of the Blue Family campaign, he joined Everton players, coaches and staff in making personal phonecalls to supporters to check on their wellbeing and provide a friendly voice to chat to.
It was a task Unsworth relished.
“It was a real privilege,” he said. “I spoke to so many amazing people and it was the highlight of my day.
“I would look forward to getting the details of the people the Club wanted me to call and it was a pleasure to speak to them all.
“They were so thankful that the Club was showing an interest in their welfare.
“It’s something I’ll never forget because we need reminding at times just how powerful the Football Club can be in these situations.
“Everton can be a fan’s whole life and for them to receive a call from the Club is just wonderful.
“I have to say, it’s one the best things I’ve ever been involved in.”