Everton Under-18s return to action on Saturday 16 January at Blackburn Rovers, having went into the festive break sixth in the U18 Premier League (North) table. In a column for evertonfc.com, manager Paul Tait discusses his side’s progress so far this term and looks ahead to what 2021 has in store…
It’s been a positive first half of the season and we’re happy with where the players are as a group and individuals.
There have been some ups and downs in terms of the matches, which in development terms is good.
You don’t want everything to be rosy all the time, because the players need to come up against some adversity and challenges, and to build their resilience for the long-term.
A lot of the first-year scholars have gone straight into Under-18s football, and they’ve done very well.
Those players have had all the challenges that come with becoming full-time footballers for the first time. And, adding to that, the pandemic, everything not quite being the way it usually is because of the changes in our daily lives.
I think they’ve coped with it fantastically well.
I’ve been really pleased with their application every day and their willingness to work hard.
The second-year scholars have been excellent, too.
We’ve got some great examples for the younger lads among the second years – particularly the likes of Sean McAllister, Tom Cannon, Lewis Warrington and Lewis Dobbin.
They have really driven the group on in terms of helping them develop.
They’ve taken on that responsibility.
Sean McAllister has been really good in that sense. He’s a real winner, a real fighter. When things have got a bit tough in training or games, he’s been the one that you look to.
We try not to make a big deal about being captain – sometimes we pass it around a bit – but he’s been the outstanding individual for that role.
He’s ultra-dedicated but he’s also got that fire in his belly. He’s got that desire to make himself a player and that rubs off on other people in training every day.
Pictured: Sean McAllister
BIG CHALLENGES AHEAD
This squad have been together for six months and there’s lots of work to do with regards the development of the team as a whole.
I’ve seen little glimpses of what we’re capable of in each game but it hasn’t all come together yet.
We’ve got a big second half of the season coming up. We’ve got the league and we want to do as well as we can in that.
We’ve got the FA Youth Cup, too, which will be a big focus for us. We’ve also got the Under-17 Premier League Cup, which we’re looking to progress in.
There’s lots of things for the boys to get their teeth into and challenging games to play.
We’ve got a really good group and good competition for places, which is always very important.
Some of our boys will also be aiming to progress to train and play with the Under-23s. A couple of the lads have already played a few games at that level and it’s important the players see that pathway.
There’s lots to play for this season, lots to look forward to and lots of hard work to be done.