David Unsworth has outlined Everton’s ambition to have the best Academy in world football as he provided an in-depth insight into his expansive new role.
Unsworth was appointed Everton’s Director of Academy in September, allowing the Under-23s boss to bring all of the teams below the senior men’s squad into one management structure, providing a smoother pathway through the Academy and into the First Team.
Everton Giant Unsworth revealed how being asked to take up his new position by Director of Football Marcel Brands was “an honour and a privilege”.
Unsworth is continuing his role as manager of Everton Under-23s, having enjoyed significant success with the young Blues. He led the team to Premier League 2 title triumphs in 2016/17 and 2018/19.
Unsworth explained how his day-to-day responsibilities have changed since becoming Director of Academy.
He also outlined why a coordinated approach between Everton’s senior and youth sides can help the Club develop high-quality players for the Blues’ First Team.
“My time is predominantly in the mornings with the Under-23s, in the afternoons with the Academy staff, and in the early evenings out on the pitch again with the young players and young coaches,” Unsworth told evertontv.
“I’m trying to observe and get a feel for every single department and every team that’s in the Academy.
“I know a lot more about all the teams already, and most of the players now all the way through.
“The days are long but that’s the job and that’s what we have to do.
“I want us to be the best Academy in the world.
“And I’m always in a rush, I want to get there quickly.
“Marcel Brands and John Ebbrell, who is now Head of Academy Coaching, and I all share the same strategy and vision.
“We want to align everything.
“We want the same messages that are being said by Carlo Ancelotti in the First Team, to be said by myself in the Under-23s, by Paul Tait in the Under-18s, all the way down to our pre-Academy boys.
“I want our players to develop quickly from one age group to the next. And we all want to promote young players into our First Team.”
Unsworth came through the ranks at Everton and went on to play 350 senior matches for the Blues during two spells at the Club.
He was part of the team that won the 1995 FA Cup and his status as a modern-day Club great was underlined in 2019 when he was named an Everton Giant.
Unsworth, then, is perfectly placed to recognise the blend of qualities required of an Everton player.
“We want to create elite footballers, who play in a certain way - the Everton way,” he says.
“That’s the message from Carlo, from Marcel, from me, from John Ebbrell, all the way down to our pre-Academy coaches.
“We’ve met all the coaches and we’re helping, monitoring and trying to get the same type of Everton footballer throughout the Academy.
“In general terms with players, we are looking for technical excellence. We want players who can handle the ball in any situation or area of the pitch.
“I think that’s really important as we want to dominate possession all the way through our teams.
“Young players now have to develop physical attributes. The game is faster than it’s ever been, there are more sprints, there are more high-speed runs. It’s more demanding than ever.
“Then we are looking for a player’s temperament and personality.
“A player who, when he steps over the white line, can take a game on.
“And a word John Ebbrell and I use all the time is coachability.
“You have got to be able to learn from your coaches.”
Now into his third month in his expanded role, Unsworth outlined how he has approached implementing changes throughout the Academy programme.
He also paid tribute to the Academy staff for their enthusiastic support as the Club strives to further advance the Blues’ hugely successful youth operation.
During the Premier League era, 50 Everton Academy players have progressed to play for the Club’s First Team.
“I’ve spoken to every department, from operations, to recruitment, to coaching, to sports science analysis,” Unsworth said.
“The staff have been fantastic. They’ve really tried to buy into a change of leadership.
“I’ve tried to streamline certain things, getting the same messages across the board.
“We’ve changed a few things within each department, we’ve employed a few different people in different roles in the Club.
“For example, Leighton Baines has come in and he is really enjoying his coaching, he’s doing a fantastic job working with the professional phase [young First Team players and the Under-23s and Under-18s squads].
“We’ve all got to be on the same journey, we’ve all got to buy into what we want to do.
“We have a great Academy. I just want us to be better.
“My job is to make us the best, and to keep creating and producing players that Carlo feels are good enough for his First Team.”